February 20, 2024

Lessons from leadership: a young professional’s guide to agency life

Maya Stoffer

Associate Project Manager

2023 marks my first full year at Curiosity – and with it came a multitude of learnings about how to navigate the emails, meetings, and deadlines of working at an agency. As the new year began, I sat down with the Curiosity leadership team to pick their brains about how they manage success in the chaos of agency life. Here’s what I learned, what I’ll be taking with me, and what I’ll be leaving behind.

What’s in:

One-on-ones with everyone

The best perk about working at a small agency like Curiosity is the ability to schedule one-on-ones with anyone in the company. One of my favorites so far was meeting up with VP of Strategy, Bhavik Joshi to chat about how he began his advice for young professionals. Bhavik insists that asking questions is one of the best ways to learn. Don’t worry about looking silly or incompetent – chances are at least two other people in the room have the same question. Park your pride, celebrate clarity, and take control of your growth. Next, I met with Chief Development Officer and Partner, Ashley Walters to unpack Curiosity’s core philosophies and how to network like a boss over Belgian waffles and frites. Finally, I met with EVP, Operations Erin Morris about overcoming imposter syndrome. Leave your comfort zone behind and ask to meet with leaders in your company, you never know what you may learn. Plus, it doesn't just benefit you – they love it too.

Say, “Yes!”

In 2024, the art of saying “yes!” is becoming lost. Boundaries and work-life balance are essential – but so is accepting potentially fruitful opportunities. In this case, “yes!” refers to not just the tasks you’re assigned, but saying yes to helping someone outside your scope of duty. Ashley Walters insists saying yes can help you learn a new skill and even propel you forward in your career. My biggest yes last year was taking over the weekly resourcing emails – giving me insight into Project Management’s role in keeping our agency profitable while empowering our people. Now, I can add resourcing and scoping to my toolbelt – something I may not have learned otherwise. In short, saying yes can unlock new opportunities outside your day-to-day responsibilities. 

Become a morning (routine) person

One thing that’s consistent across our leadership team is a consistent morning routine. Although I’m not typically a morning person, establishing these rhythms has made me endlessly more effective and organized. Armed with advice from our leaders, my morning routine now involves blocking time on my calendar in the morning to prioritize my to-do list, call out any conflicts, and catch up on any communications since logging off the day prior. This allows me to set up focus times to tackle my hottest tasks. It doesn’t have to be right after you wake up, nor do you have to list needs manually, but it’s important to have a process that works for you to self-manage.  

What’s out:

Snubbing your wins

Curiosity is my first job out of college, and while the fast-paced environment of advertising is exciting – it can also lead to moments of self-doubt. For me, this is the year of believing in myself. If you haven’t already, physically write down a list of 10 wins from last year worth celebrating. They may seem like ordinary accomplishments to others, but if they feel like victories to you, let them pump you up! Being courageous, trying new things, and even failing are all signs of growth. Having complete mastery over 100% of your tasks would be boring. Here’s to using your wins as fuel to conquer self-doubt in 2024.

Working in a bubble

When you work at a small agency, clearly communicating (and collaborating) with just about everyone at the company is an absolute must. While it may be tempting to silo off and throw deliverables over the wall, the best work often requires early and cross-department collaboration. One of my biggest takeaways from last year is that what seems intuitive to you may not be intuitive to your teammates. Luckily, Curiosity uses Cloverleaf – a tool that factors your (and your team’s) personality into daily coaching tips. Not everyone learns and communicates the same way – so having data-based insights on how to collaborate with them is a huge perk. Whether your company has a tool to reveal these kinds of preferences, or you need to be courageous and have a conversation (over Belgian waffles and frites, of course), investing time in truly knowing your team is always a good idea.

Not advocating for yourself

In agency land, things move so fast that if you’re not going to bat for yourself, you may miss out on opportunities. EVP of Operations, Erin Morris insists, that being your own advocate is expected, not annoying. Whether it’s raising a hand to be a part of a new business pitch, taking on a new skill, or flexing on a new client – your manager won’t know you want to be included if you don’t ask. Gone are the days of passively watching cool opportunities pass by, 2024 is the year of the “free ask.” Because the answer is always “no” if you don’t speak up.

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