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If you started your ad career at a small, pretty unknown agency, is it impossible to switch to a big agency (Grey, FCB, DDB, Digitas, Droga, etc)? Been at small for 3+ years and can’t seem to get out

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You can do it. Just be willing to move and take every opportunity given to you. Believe it or not, bigger agencies like small agency folks because they don’t have the “not my job” mentality some legacy big shops folks do. Small agency people are usually super scrappy. Play that up

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likeupliftingsmart
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It ain’t easy but it’s doable. Be prepared for a lot of rejection until you meet a decent human being willing to give you a shot. That’s what happened to me.

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likeuplifting
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Yes and I’d say even more so for creatives (it’s all about the book, right?) but leverage every connection you have. Go to those mixer things (which is literal hell but can really help) and start sending your book to the recruiters at the agencies you want to move to. You got this!

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likeuplifting
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That’s the thing, our agency doesn’t win awards or even have pr for our campaigns. Some of the work we do is really great, and yet no one talks about it because we don’t share it. I have written and produced social, tv, digital videos, print, ooh, email, SEM, websites, and more but it’s not award-winning and nothing is more frustrating. Not because I necessarily want an award but because I feel like I need one as a bargaining chip for a new job with a big name. I’ve been in an interview, went back and forth with several agency recruiters, etc. and Ive felt the same, I get the initial response but then ghosted when they have a “hiring freeze” or “need to find a new cd first” or given no explanation of never hearing back. Very frustrating. Ready to take a jr position just to get in the damn door.

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If you look at people’s profiles in LinkedIn, you’ll see that A LOT of people who work at well known agencies have also worked at places you’ve never heard of. I’ve worked at places you’ve never heard of handling Indian casino and state lottery accounts and also have worked at very well known places with household names as clients. I’ve made spots with million dollar budgets and spots shot in-house with literally $100 budget. As long as your work is well done, well crafted and has good solid concepts, most CDs won’t care who the client is. Small clients sometimes are great opportunities for great creative because they have very little to lose and very little approval layers. They will sometimes be willing to take more risks than larger conservative brands. It has more merit to actually build a brand from the ground up than to just work to contribute to an already existing brand that whose personality is very clear cut. If a CD is not willing to give you a chance solely based on the agency or market you come from, you don’t want to work for that snob. Trust me.

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It’s certainly more difficult... speaking from experience. I worked at a small local agency and although I worked on an athletic account with a famous Running back as the spokesperson, worked on a big hospital account, and a few others, I managed to have interviews at big agencies but I always seemed to get passed up by a recent graduate of MAS who is immediately made Art Director, or someone who interned at a bigger agency. I took it as a sign I wasn’t meant to work there and just kept at it, improving my book and networking. It’s not an easy climb but it’s possible. Do you feel like you are at least doing good work at this smaller agency? Are you all at least winning Addys or working on any decent regional or national accounts you can use for leverage?

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I was at a small, unknown agency for 2.5yrs and ended up saying f it and took an internship at a big name place. A few months in, I lucked out and they brought me on full-time at a mid-level position.

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likeuplifting
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I started at a small indie agency called Quaker City Mercantile. Have worked in NYC and CHI at majors like Ogilvy, Burnett and FCB. The key was my portfolio. And having a point of view about brands and the work

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likeuplifting
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It’s possible. I did it. Not Wieden or Droga, but the tier beneath that. You’ll likely have to take a step back or make a series of lateral moves. After being a leader in a small agency, I went to portfolio school at 31. Did some spec campaigns and literally knocked on doors. Had to jump through two digital agencies to get to ones where I could make commercials. It was tough. And crazy. But it beat the alternative, which was my career dying in a small market.

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likeuplifting
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Not impossible. I started at a small, unknown agency. Went entry level to entry level basically.

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Partner up with a single creative with experience in bigger agencies. Mix the books and go to interviews together.

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Do personal projects and spec work and you’ll be good. Just demonstrate good thinking, that’s it.

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It's possible as long as you are doing great work and making your book better and better and hopefully working on a few accounts people have heard of. Also try winning some local awards like the ADDYs if nothing else. Your agency should want the recognition and if they don't maybe they're the wrong place. Wherever you work big or small you should always be asking yourself, am I getting the opportunity to do good work for my book here? If that answer is no, move on. You may be at a big agency one day longing for the days when you were able to do scrappy good creative work at a small shop rather than the behemoth conservative non-creative big agency bread and butter account you get stuck on! Good luck!

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likehelpful
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I've gone from a small indie to Ogilvy to an indie to Burnett and FCB to an indie to Havas to an indie. The work I've done at the indies was always cooler than the big agencies. So they want a piece of that. I'm not exceptional. Many before me. It's up to you. And your resolve.

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I will say - i think some biggies are jealous of the indie work. Here in Ny It seems like Office of Baby is viewed as “awesome” and people would kill to work there

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Office of baby? Is that a Trump agency?

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Yes, I took that exact path. Try hard, do great work, don’t be an ass and you can do it.

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likeuplifting
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Side question: what qualifies as a “small” agency? Are you at a bigger disadvantage working at a smaller agency on a lesser-know client, or not having any great portfolio work while working for a big agency with big clients?

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I seek out folks that have small firm experience. A few years at a small firm primes them with the type of multifaceted, non-specialized, multiple-hats type of experience that helps them empathize better with their specialized, agency colleagues later on. They’re super scrappy and more difficult to stress out too. If you’re presenting directly to clients at your small place, don’t give up that opportunity when you switch to big. Clients at big agencies aren’t really all that different from clients at smaller ones. They’re just a part of bigger teams

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I'm in this current struggle and considering hiring a career coach who has experience helping people make this jump. It's expensive but I'm hoping they will be able to help me get my goal a lot faster than I could on my own.

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likeuplifting
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Nope! I went from a small agency to a bigger one after less than a year at the small shop, when the project I was hired for got shut down

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