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In this short week, we examine the in-house-vs.-agency debate from a few angles. Today’s: career development.

One question that digital marketers frequently ask is whether working in-house vs at an agency is better. Obviously, there are pros and cons to both, but having been on both sides of the fence, I couldn’t be happier with my choice to work at an agency.

My career started at an agency-‘like’ environment that wasn’t a true agency. I worked at an e-commerce software company that provided marketing services to customers who bought their software. The clients were exciting, and while we were structured like an agency, I only worked in one vertical. Next, I moved in-house to a large health insurance company, and while I learned more about health insurance than most people do in a lifetime, I still wasn’t satisfied. When I moved to 3Q, I knew I made the right decision. I am working on incredible clients, and I have been able to excel at specific areas of digital marketing and grow my skill set at a faster rate than I had at my two previous jobs.

In this post, I’ll explain what I see as the biggest benefits of agency work.

Learn Across Verticals

In an agency, you have more opportunity to work on different types of businesses. Over several years, you can get experience with numerous types of verticals and types and sizes of business. Since joining 3Q, I’ve been exposed to a lot of variety – which has made me realize what type of businesses I enjoy working on as well as sharpened my skills as a marketer.

I’ve had to flex my skills across ecommerce clients in different spaces, B2B enterprise clients, and media clients – all of which have needed a different approach and strategy. Getting this type of experience in-house would require moving to several different companies. At an agency, it’s part of my job to be flexible and apply a strategic approach to a specific client.

Dive Deep and Become an Expert

Working at an agency means you may be working closely with a specific channel or medium early in your career. For instance, at 3Q early on, you choose either Search, Social, or Display as a focus. As your career progresses, you may choose to get exposure to other channels, but you start by becoming an expert in a specific channel. Knowing the ins and outs of a specific channel allows you to develop a strong expertise that businesses need. Knowing how this channel works across different businesses and holistically for a business’s larger media mix is extremely valuable. While working in-house, I was expected to work with the agency to help develop the strategy, messaging, and goals – however the tactical implementation was left up to the agency.

Stay Ahead of the Curve

Clients rely on us to keep them aware of the next big thing in marketing. Working at an agency means you have an entire network willing to help you be successful. If you don’t have an immediate answer to a problem, you have a talent pool that can help you solve the problem at hand. Even more exciting is when you come across a question that hasn’t been answered. This is when you get the opportunity to shine for you client as well as your agency and come up with a custom solution and truly innovate.

 

Overall, I think working at an agency has a ton of benefits. You get the opportunity to work on not one but many different types of businesses. You learn at an extremely fast pace, and you’re constantly challenged to innovate for your clients and look beyond the status quo. You may stay an agency for the long term or switch to another company, but this experience will only help you shine wherever you land.