This was the question put to me by our global chief executive during my first week in the job.
A simple question and one borne out of genuine interest.
And yet it made me stop and think.
Starting a new job is always going to be daunting, whether it’s your first internship fresh out of college or whether you’re like me and taking your career in a new direction after working for some (ahem) 19 years.
I’m actually no stranger to career changes in and of themselves – I’ve gone from being a music lawyer to a Westminster press secretary before a 14-year stint doing in-house corporate comms in the energy industry.
But as it turns out, jumping over the fence from in-house to agency is actually not all that common.
Many will tell you (and they certainly told me) that it’s easier to go the other way, and that a lack of agency experience is a pretty tricky barrier to overcome.
Well I’ve never been one for taking the easy route and thank goodness for farsighted and pragmatic employers. The kind who see past issues like that and are more interested in people than their CVs.
While it’s true that people with agency backgrounds will bring valuable experience and perspective to an in-house role – it seems, in fact, the same is true going the other way.
For example, what better insight into the needs and expectations of your clients can be attained than by having been a client for many years yourself?
Also, having a long, sector specific, in-house background will engender a deeper knowledge of your chosen industry than could ever be had outside of it.
These are significant things to bring to the table – which is really important when every other aspect of your working environment has changed.
Because agency life is different, make no mistake about it. The pace, the variety, the lack of hierarchy (which is a good thing by the way) – did I mention the pace? And it takes a certain personality – some people will invariably be better suited to it than others.
So all that said, after one week of being in my new agency role – how, indeed, was I doing?
As I said, I had to stop and think.
Well – I explained – it’s a bit like going to the States and driving on the other side of the road. You know what you’re doing, you know what everything does (clutch, brake, radio etc…) but it’s all on the other side to what you’re used to.
So you can drive – and drive you do – even though it feels a bit odd at first, but you soon get the hang of it.
Until of course you do what everyone does (and as anyone who has ever gone left hand drive will tell you) – you make a left hand turn and, inexplicably, end up on the wrong side of the road. It’s par for the course really. Just get yourself back over to the right side of the road when it happens.
I’m not sure if it made a lot of sense to my boss but it made a lot of sense to me, and it still does.
So for anyone wanting to make the jump from in-house, know this: it’s different but it’s definitely doable – and there’s nothing like the lure of the open road to remind you of why you took up driving in the first place.