Advice to Aspiring Agency Professionals: 5 Personality Traits to Embrace

Professional Development


So you’ve embarked on a career with a marketing agency. Congratulations! You’ve joined a growing world at an exciting time. Opportunities are many and varied. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 19% rise in marketing analyst roles by 2024.

And the positions themselves are even more exciting. Because every sector is now thinking deeply about marketing and data, analyst jobs can be found everywhere. You could be diving into education, healthcare, retail, and tech. Plus, entry-level marketing salaries are much higher at $50,824 than the average starting wage of $36,000.

You’ve made this great decision, but what will daily life actually look like?

A Day in the Life of a Young Agency Professional

The short answer is that every day will be a different animal. You’ll be collaborating with a range of talented people, all working in different ways toward a common goal. One day, you might be teaming up with product designers, working with photographers, or communicating with experts in a particular field to understand their viewpoints.

Work will be fast-paced, and you’ll be surrounded by motivated, passionate people so your duties might spill over the traditional boundaries of a 9-to-5, with challenging moments to keep you awake. But you’ll also enjoy flexibility and variety in spades. Your achievement will be less based on time clocked and numbers reached than by invention and story creation.

What I’ve Learned About How to Succeed in the Agency Environment

I started my company, LIFT, without any formal agency experience. I came from the internal creative environment at AOL in the late 1990s and saw the team grow from a handful of experimental creatives to a department of more than 100. We worked with agencies a lot, and by the time I left AOL to found my own, I had an idea of what a good agency should look like.

For me, it was all about listening. At an agency, you’re lucky to have freedom, variety, and access to diverse channels and industries, so it’s easy to let your creative ego take over. But if you don’t listen to clients’ ideas and insights, your end result will be lackluster and misdirected.

I took this experience into my role as trustee at Marketing Edge, where I helped nurture the next generation of agency professionals. It’s the only nonprofit of its kind—aimed at connecting young marketers with mentors and experienced professionals like myself.

What I’ve learned by watching and interacting with so many developing marketers is that a professional skill set is only half the equation that leads to success. Personality is paramount. The ability to get along with others and build productive, collaborative relationships is more important than any qualification or intelligence measure.

What Makes a Successful (and Happy) Marketing Pro

From witnessing the evolution of many young professionals, I’ve recognized several traits that are strongly linked to longevity and success at an agency.

Here are the top five:

1. Endless Curiosity

Marketing is an ever-changing challenge. Each day and each client presents a new problem that you’ll have to devise a solution for. The best ideas will be those that come from observation, testing, and imaginative play.
In turn, the top marketer is often the most curious, which means he or she is always watching, prodding, and questioning. Plus, he or she is fascinated by the client and wants to get to know what makes him or her tick. This is a sure-fire way of creating something that people are going to love.

2. Positive Default

“I like working with negative people,” said no one ever. The stress of a busy, competitive environment can sometimes bring out the worst in people—they feel under pressure and try to resolve this discomfort by denigrating the tasks and people around them. But negativity will only lead to alienation from your team and will make it more difficult to achieve your collective goals.

People who will make their mark in an agency environment are the individuals who always take a positive spin on a problem. Their mindset helps others to strive harder and do better, and it ensures they’re able to face inevitable tough moments with strength and motivation.

3. Willing to Admit Fault

It is vital to have humility in an agency setting because everything is a result of collaboration. If you make a mistake or don’t know how to do something, you need to be ready and willing to admit that, ask for help and put the project’s needs ahead of your own discomfort.

Humility doesn’t have to be at odds with assertiveness or leadership. In fact, the strongest leaders are those who know their limitations and can assert their viewpoints while also listening to others and empowering them.

4. Ego-Free Attitude

Egos can be one of the most damaging workplace stressors, especially in an environment like a marketing agency because it hinges on healthy collaboration with colleagues and clients.

The best marketing professionals know how to put their ego away and focus on client-centric results rather than personal accolades. Interestingly, when people do something they love, they tend to naturally operate without ego. They get into the “flow” of what they’re doing and lose sight of pride and vanity. The best agency professionals will manage to find these projects that help them remove their ego and simply get to work.

5. Saint-Level Patience

Your career is a long game. Even when you reach the age of 40, you may not even be halfway through your working life. Don’t be in a rush to gain raises, bonuses, and promotions. All of that will come in good time if you focus on working hard every day, developing your skills, and creating high-quality work.

Having talent is helpful, but it soon shrivels under pressure if you don’t have the right amount of patience to see challenges and roadblocks through.

As a new marketer, a world of opportunities is out there for you to seize, and you don’t have to be a fully formed marketing genius to do so. Simply begin by embracing and strengthening your humility, curiosity, positivity, ego-less attitude, and patience, and you’ll set yourself apart from day one.

Do you have any other tips for new marketers? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.