Emily in Paris is a bunch of bullshit.
Real life marketing agencies are nothing like the hit series - they are far less glamours, have a lot less personal drama wrapped into them and you only sometimes get the fancy lunch. But, what they lack in glitz and glamour they certainly make up in accelerating your career.
I spent 5 years growing my skills in a fast-paced b2b marketing agency and would not be where I am today without that wealth of experience and opportunity to grow.
Here's why all marketers early in their career should do a stint in an agency:
You'll learn to work with all types of people across many industries.
People are hard. At an agency when you work directly with clients you need to understands everyone's goals and objectives. It isn't easy. Mix that in with everyone's unique egos and personality types and your head can be spinning. I've worked with incredible marketing managers and business owners, and I've worked with down-right narcissists. What I know is learning from these people and working with them set me up for understanding many different people later on in my career.
You'll kind of get an MBA from your exposure to all business types
When you're at an agency you get to work with micro businesses, SMBs and enterprise clients.
All have different sales cycles, products and goals. Through working with these people you'll start to pick up business knowledge that most people need to invest time and money into getting an MBA for. Not at an agency - you get to get paid to learn it on the fly!
You'll quickly learn time management and project management skills
Generally speaking agencies are under the pump and it can be incredibly stressful. If you're lucky, your agency will have some proven processes and procedures and hopefully a good project management tool. But, there's nothing like deadlines, new projects and clients calling to teach you how to quickly learn to prioritise and hone your PM skills.
You'll get to try many different areas of marketing (and maybe even sales!)
I was lucky to start as a content writer and leave as client strategy and delivery lead.
I got experience in marketing strategy, workshopping, research, setting up social and search, writing copy, websites, CRM and CMS management. Not to mention project management, project scoping, quoting, presenting, people management, customer success and sales. I've used content syndication tools, EDM blasts, partnership plays, press releases, video shoots... honestly the list goes on. I really got to become a generalist and decide where I liked to spend my time. Perfect for marketers who aren't sure what they want or get bored easily (aka me). But, you also have the opportunity to niche down in a big agency if you choose to.
Working in a small agency gives you the business acumen to work for any size business, freelance, consult or even run your own agency one day. Hopefully you'll be as lucky as me to work for a very savvy group of smart people who give you incredible opportunities to learn and grow.
ps. If a successful marketing agency really exists like the one that's portrayed in the Netflix hit series I'll gladly be proven wrong and donate $200 Ethni, my non-profit charity of choice. Let me know in the thread.