Which work style suits you best –- agency or in-house?

Anthony Haynes writes: We are delighted to publish this guest post from Liz Crawshaw concerning a key question of work style.

CrawshawLiz Crawshaw is an award-winning communications specialist and a former journalist who has worked for, among others, Ken Livingstone when he was Mayor of London and for London 2012. She currently works as a business partner on supplier communications at the Royal Mail. Liz has also worked agency side for a spell, at the Forster Agency, where the project she led won Forster’s Campaign of the Year. She also runs a blog for fellow coeliacs on a gluten-free diet, called www.downwithgluten.com 

Liz Crawshaw writes: I’ve worked with a lot of agencies and I’ve worked in one, but I’ve also spent much of my career in-house. It can be really hard, particularly if you’ve only worked one side of the fence, to work out your best ‘fit’.

Here are some considerations you might want to think about if you’re trying to decide where to take your career next.

Can you be an advocate for the organisation you work for?

I switched from journalism to an in-house role working for the Mayor of London. Jumping from journalism to a political cause made the move easier, because it was natural for me to get passionate about issues and policies. If you’re in-house, you need to be able to commit to the organisation and to care about what it stands for.

How good are you at being a lone voice in the face of opposition? When you’re in-house you are often the niche specialist who has to persuade others – it takes an entirely different approach and way of thinking. It became a real issue for me when I moved to a communications partnering role. I went from having a boss at the Olympic Delivery Authority who was a former Prime Ministerial spokesman to a boss at the Royal Mail who was an accountant. I had to adapt my language, my approach, and my entire way of working. It was a huge challenge but I’ve learnt a lot at Royal Mail about influencing and managing upwards, which will stand me in good stead in any future role.

Do you get a buzz out of juggling a lot of projects?

The biggest downsides of being in-house are probably having to deal with routine and with office politics . If you prefer not to get bogged down in detail and you love multi-tasking, you’re likely to be more comfortable in an agency. However, working for multiple clients means you have to become adept at accounting for every hour in your working day. This can be a challenge if you’re not used to it.

How commercial are you?

It is inevitable that as you progress to more senior roles in an agency, it becomes less about the day job and more about the balance sheet. In fact, when you’re at a senior level it’s hard to switch from in-house to agency because you won’t have that demonstrable record of bringing in new business. If you see yourself in an agency long-term, there’s nothing like getting that experience of pitching and setting up accounts under your belt.


Have you made the move from agency to in-house or vice versa? How did you find it?

Respond here

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