For a young professional just beginning his or her career, the agency world can be challenging. The hours are long, the deadlines are never-ending, and – after four years of college – your starting salary might be easily confused with a semester's worth of tuition. But despite all this, working at an agency remains highly desirable for young people around the world. Why? A big part of the answer is simple: the perks.
I work at a media agency, and the pressure is intense, but I freely admit that the glamorous parties, fancy lunches and free tickets definitely help balance out the challenges. At a very early age, I've done amazing things that my parents, for example, may not have a chance to do… ever. I've eaten at some of the best restaurants in the country, experienced great sporting moments live, been to countless big-name concerts and partied at the best clubs with celebrities. No complaints here.
Unfortunately, many of these wonderful opportunities often go under-appreciated by some who have become ungracious and entitled. In fact, every few months or so, the industry is abuzz with the latest story of an egregious and shameless abuse of one's expense account or a partner's largesse.
That brings up an important point: ethics. Every organization has different standards for what you can spend, give or accept, so be sure to fully understand your own company's own guidelines. Speak with your managers to find out what's appropriate, and always ask your leadership team if you're not sure. It may seem silly and bureaucratic, but these rules are there for a reason, and that reason includes protecting you, not just your company.
Above all, you must remain grounded. While we all work hard, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying the perks of the industry when they are within agency guidelines, sometimes we need a reminder that the lifestyle that may come with this job is not an entitlement. If you ever realize that you've come to expect free entertainment, food and beverages, you need to check yourself – fast. These perks are earned, not owed, and can sometimes come with a quid pro quo. Too often this is forgotten, and it's important to maintain perspective. Never treat good times at someone else's expense as a birthright to working in media; instead, take the time to appreciate how lucky you are to enjoy some really amazing experiences while you're young.
Here's the bottom line: if you ever find yourself sitting in a meeting, complaining that the free gourmet sandwiches and sparkling water that a partner has provided offend your refined palette, just think back to the days of eating instant ramen noodles night after night in your dorm room, and try saying thank you.
About the Author
Sam Geer is associate director of strategy at MediaCom. He first joined MediaCom in 2007 in the agency's Sydney, Australia, office. After five years, Sam has brought his passion for brands to the New York office, where he currently helps lead the thought process for clients including Audi and Revlon.