Big Ideas

A Response to an AdAge Article, “From the Classroom to the Office: Where Expectation Meets Reality”

A long stretch of empty highway with fields on both sides

By idfive \ September 2, 2016

Michael read this article and circulated it to a couple of people. Not before long, the entire leadership was reading it. And then the entire agency. I even sent it to a couple of the colleges we teach and work with. The article is about the jarring transition from the classroom to the office setting. It’s a telling read about expectations and reality.

I asked Michael to respond to the article in specific terms. And this is what he wrote:

Pace of the job

The goal is to effectively and efficiently manage our clients, so the fast pace of the job was inevitable and not much of a surprise. I’ve learned that agencies are structured by deadlines, which makes prioritizing work extremely important. Which also means sometimes on projects you will get interrupted with higher priority issues. At first I was having trouble picking back up where I last left off on previous tasks. Shifting focus between clients was another thing that took awhile to get used to. I’ve found that the best counter to balancing multiple clients and switching gears is organization and preparation.

Expectations of quality

The expectation of quality in an agency setting was not far off from my expectations. You are no longer just a college student, you now represent your agency. Holding yourself to a higher standard and always doing your best allows you to grow as a person and professional. You should also be consistent with your work and give 100% to all of the tasks assigned to you, even the ones that aren’t as glamorous.

Client ready to me means that everything is perfect and has gone through multiple rounds of QC. In college, you’d get docked a couple percentage points for a typo. If an agency makes a mistake, they run the risk of completely losing that client. You are paying to learn in college. You are getting paid to perform while working at an agency. And if you aren’t positively impacting your clients performance, then why are you getting paid?

Transition from the classroom

Graduating with a dual-track in Advertising and Public Relations, what was learned in the classroom was mostly vocabulary and very little application to agency-like scenarios. I believe there are still a bunch of opportunities to strap students up with before getting into their profession. For example, Word and Excel are very basic softwares and are a breeze to learn. But they are still something you have to figure out to utilize properly. Once you’ve gained those skills, the quality and efficiency of your work increases dramatically.

  • Word – Keyboard Shortcuts, Styles/Table of Contents, Formatting Tables/Charts
  • Excel – Formulas, Conditional Formatting, Filters, Pivot Tables

Soft skills aren’t automatic and are something to be learned. At the start of your first job, both your soft skills and hard skills are underdeveloped. The combination of attempting to learn the soft skills and hard skills simultaneously is challenging. The soft skills that you learn from working in a corporate environment are similar to learning how to drive a car. At first it takes full concentration, but once you learn how to do it you are able to execute on autopilot. Same thing goes in the corporate world once you’ve acquired hands-on experience, learned all the buzzwords and found out what works best for you. Once these soft skills become second nature, you can shift focus to developing your arsenal of hard skills.

Needless to say, Michael gets to keep his job with flying colors. If you are another Michael, please look at our careers page immediately. If you are a competitor, Michael makes ten million dollars a year, so good luck trying to poach him away from us!