Initiation into the agency world includes a lot of firsts. Your first pub dinner, your first all-nighter, and your first “sorry, I’m too swamped with client deliverables to help” email, to name a few.
Anyone who has ever worked at (or with) an ad agency knows this phrase well. It’s the bane of those of us who aren’t client-facing, and is responsible for everything from delayed invoice approvals to skipped training sessions. But does it hold any weight?
Since the advertising world is a client-facing industry, it’s true that client deliverables pay the bills. Speaking from my past experience on the media side, of course they need to take priority! But resting on that excuse is a dangerous game for advertising professionals, and robs them of their power in the situation.
Saying you are too busy to do anything outside of client deliverables is the easy way out, but when are you not? There’s always client work to do, and I can guarantee there’s never going to be a time that you’re sitting at your desk idly and say, “hey, this seems like a great time for me to do some professional development!”. You need to find time for you within the long agency days. Boundary setting is healthy, and you can’t afford to play the victim card to your clients forever. There will always be more work, more you can do, and not enough time for yourself.
Prioritizing professional development is one of the best things you can do not only for yourself, but also for your company. The benefits to your career growth are obvious, because in a world evolving as quickly as ours if you’re not learning the newest set of digital skills or ways of working, you’re easy enough to replace with the newest college grad who thinks they’re Don Draper and can go 36 hours without sleeping. I’d argue that this is almost more crucial for the agencies, though. Since they’re in the business of serving clients, their employees who interface with those clients are the biggest asset they have, and it’s imperative to stay ahead of the curve.
All that said, use a logic check on this advice. I don’t encourage saying yes to professional development opportunities all the time either. Over-committing and under-delivering isn’t helpful to anyone, and over-committing and burning yourself out is just bad planning on your part.
Take time to step out of the cycle and view the big picture. Maybe shifting your mindset to start prioritizing yourself isn’t all that difficult.