4 Embarrassing Lessons I learned as the New Hire

My first week at a Digital Marketing Agency

Before walking in, I thought I had a good grasp on all pillars of Digital Marketing.

I ran my own Facebook ad campaign a couple months ago on an E-book that garnered a 3044% return on investment, finished my first Adwords campaign with a decent Clickthrough Rate, and had prior experience in multiple internships.

However, when I started working full-time at an agency, I quickly realized I was not in the little leagues anymore. $100 budgets turned into $1000 budgets (sometimes hundreds of thousands), my clients weren’t post-secondary clubs that I practically paid to decorate my resume, and my colleagues have probably been working in the industry for 3+ years.

I went from feeling like I had an edge for being among the first of my peers to immerse myself in a rapidly growing industry, to realizing I was merely a guppy born in the giant pond that is Digital Marketing.

Despite my feelings of mediocrity and chronic onset of imposter syndrome, I’ve learned a bunch of lessons during my first week at a Digital Marketing agency. Here are a few I think my fellow aspiring marketers will find useful.

You Know Nothing

Take everything you think you know about Digital Marketing [Best practices for Ad copy, A/B Testing, Customer Journeys] and throw it out. I’m not saying that those things aren’t important; they’re a good starting point for brainstorming ideas and give you a solid foundation for decision-making.
But realize that all these best practices and rules you learn in your education will take a backseat to your agencies’ processes, the demands of your clients, and budget.

You may want to increase conversions in your ads, but your clients may not be willing to optimize their landing pages.

You may want to plan the brand campaign of your dreams, but your client offers a minuscule budget that will hardly show it to anyone.

You may want to put your own ideas into action, but as a junior, have to work your way up the ranks to have any real strategic influence.

It’s this sort of pivoting from fundamentals you’ll see when you start at an agency, or any job for that matter, that will challenge your critical thinking skills.

You will be expected to make things work, and to communicate value to a client when you’re put into situations where creating value is nearly close to impossible.

Beyond Titles, your superiors are just human beings

While working with those who exceed your experience (in career, and in life in general), it’s easy to feel like you’re a worthless organism in the ecosystem that is your agency. There’s not just a gap in experience, but generational gaps in an organization too, that may make it harder for you to build rapport in your first few encounters (especially if you’re a young, introverted Asian-Canadian like me.)


At the end of the day, your agency superstars are still human beings:

They all use the restroom (and absolutely stink it up)
They’re all messy (do your dishes guys)
And sometimes, will want to stop working halfway through the day to partake in non-work-related activities, like Nerf Gun fights, and Ping-Pong.

Remembering this during the most nerve-wracking of times will help you to drop the formalities (when appropriate) and just be yourself — your Nerf gun shooting, restroom-destroying self.

Relationships Take time

As a millennial, I find myself relying on superficial charm and personality to jump-start relationships. Thought leaders like Steven Covey, writer of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” have shared compelling opinions about similarly common social tactics that others among my generation have been using to build relationships quickly. This age-old phenomenon is known as the ‘personality ethic’.

The personality ethic essentially describes the attitudes popularized in the self-growth movement of today, which defines effectiveness as practicing cliché positivity techniques and behavior to fast-track your way to success. I find that as the newbie in an agency, or any job for that matter, new workers fall into the trap of trying to win friends with these quick-fix behavioral techniques.

Covey explains the flaw of the personality ethic best when he states,

“If I try to use human influence strategies and tactics of how to get other people to do what I want, to work better, to be more motivated, to like me and each other — while my character is fundamentally flawed, marked by duplicity and insincerity — …in the long run, I cannot be successful.”

The moment I started building a real rapport with my colleagues was when I started practicing what Covey called the ‘character ethic’.

The character ethic (in contrast to the personality ethic) inspires deeper change within us — it involves taking the time to really build trust with our colleagues in a way that is authentic and deeply rooted in who we are. Rather than relying on insincere smiles and charm, the character ethic encourages principles like humility, hard work, and the ‘Golden Rule’.

How can you practice ‘character ethic’ as a new-hire?

If you’re unfamiliar with a certain process/task, drop the pride and don’t be afraid to admit that you are. If you are speaking to clients, do more than just shed bad news with a smile; really try to dig deep into the problems presented to you and come up with a solution.

The insincere effort and superficial charm can be smelt from a mile away; not just from your colleagues, but from anyone in general.

Walking into your agency on your first day with enthusiasm and over-the-top charm may be the quickest way to win friends, but when it comes building long-lasting, meaningful relationships, elements of the character ethic (patience, hard-work, humility) will help you go the distance.

Learning doesn’t stop in the Office

Because you’ll never know when Google will hit you with an algorithm change, or when a client wants to pull a 180 on their strategy. The moment I feel comfortable with my job is simultaneously the moment I realize there is a lot more to be learned.

At an agency, things change on a daily, even hourly basis — whether you’re ready for it or not. The one thing I love most about working at an agency can be the one thing I despise the most.

Slowly but surely, you will grow

Because if you spend enough time immersed in anything, you will become an expert. In fact, one of the most surprising things you’ll learn about those who lead your team are the stories of how they started! At my agency, a few of my colleagues came from totally unrelated backgrounds: retail, accounting, nutrition — to name a few.

This just goes to show that no matter unfamiliar you are with something, with the right mentorship, you can learn enough to make a huge impact!

Next thing you know, you’ll be the one teaching naive newbies these lessons.

Have any of you had any similar experiences during your first day on the job? At an agency?

Leave a comment below if you have! I hope to share more about Digital Marketing and self-growth on this blog soon!