PR: Nonprofit vs. Agency

A lot of changes have been taking place in my little world lately, which might explain why I haven’t blogged in a while… Yeah, I’ll let that be the explanation.

Five weeks ago I left a wonderful job and a ho-hum life in Washington, DC to pack up and move it all to Chicago. It’s been a whirlwind, but I couldn’t be happier. It’s so awesome to see skyscrapers again, let alone work in one! Aside from settling in and dealing with a welcome flu (new city, new germs, amiright?), most of my time has been spent adjusting to my new job: Account Executive on the Food/Agriculture Issues Management team for global PR firm Ketchum.

I won’t get into the nitty gritty, but even in my first few weeks I’ve noticed some major differences between working for a nonprofit and working for a major agency:

  • Billability goals — Believe it or not, this is actually something I’ve already come to appreciate! I still have some learning to do with predicting and allocating team time on specific projects (training to begin next week), but for the most part, this has become a very helpful tool personally for helping me to gauge and prioritize my tasks. I also feel really accomplished when I reach or exceed goals, so obviously I’m going to work as hard and efficiently for this. It’s also helpful for keeping me accountable for my time… I’m sure my Facebook friends are really missing me.
  • Client relations — Not to sound like a nerd, but again, I’m liking this aspect of the agency world a lot. I’ve always been pretty good at customer service; I like to listen and be empathetic. I like to be creative. It’s interesting to me to figure out how different clients prefer to communicate and interact with our team.
  • Team collaboration — I don’t mean to imply this didn’t exist at my former job, because it definitely did… it was just different. The teamwork now is not just aimed at brainstorming specific solutions (although there certainly is a ton of that), but there’s just a very strong sense of networking and information sharing. The notion of holding projects and programs close to chest is practically non-existent, and I love it.
  • Awards — In my previous experience, one or two people were largely responsible for submitting award entries. Now, it’s an agency-wide and respected endeavor, where every team is helping each other, providing input and feedback to make sure we’re shining the brightest lights on our best work, not just for our sake but for our clients too.
  • No brainwashing — This probably sounds more dramatic than I mean for it to. The truth is I honestly LOVED my former job; I was proud to support the organization’s mission, and I’m still a volunteer and a donor. However, my first month or so did seem like a brainwashing period. Now, I’m diving in to my work, but I get to research the issues as they come and form my own opinions about them. I’m still doing the clients’ work and I was even asked during the hiring process if I’d have any issues representing some of their stances (the answer is a resounding “no!”). I’m not expected to agree with or support everything they do or say; I’m only expected to give them my best effort, which I can respect.
  • Growth opportunities — I understand it can be difficult in nonprofits to establish career development paths. But it’s also a trait of us Millenials that we will move on when we feel we’ve reached our max potential with a job. One of the things I’m most looking forward to with this opportunity is the encouragement I’ve already received — not just verbally, but in my team’s and the leadership’s actions as well — to really determine what I want out of my career and take control to drive my growth. “Hispanic food culture marketing,” here I come! (Yeah, I don’t really know if that’s a thing, but why not?!)

I’m sure I’ll continue to discover differences and form opinions about my job and the clients. For now, I’m just happy to have the experience and I’m thankful every day is different and interesting.

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