Top 5 Things I’ve Learned Moving From Nonprofit to Agency


A few months ago I made the leap from working in a small nonprofit to work in an agency. After almost two years in my first post-college position, I was ready to try new adventures and see how far I could stretch myself in a different environment. In midst of the excitement, I was terrified. I didn’t have a closet full of suits, I didn’t know how to keep time records, nor did I know how to juggle more than one client at a time. I only knew how to take care of one client, the nonprofit. However, underneath the nervousness, I couldn’t wait to begin working with a new team and learn more about my strengths and weaknesses.

Over the last three months, I learned a great deal about what it is to survive the “agency life.” I am still learning and am continually eager to stretch myself and see where my skills can grow. Listed below are the top five things I’ve learned moving from in-house to agency:

1. Be Flexible. Moving from one work environment to another can be a tough transition. From learning new office policies to figuring out how your new coworkers operate, you may become mentally drained in the beginning. However, you should absorb as much as possible from your new environment and remain flexible. If you allow yourself to be open-minded and mentally flexible, you will learn how to efficiently use your time and work alongside of others.

2. Practice Good Time Management. Time management is important in any professional position. Prioritizing work and ensuring all tasks are done in an appropriate timeline is an ideal responsibility for any employee. In an agency setting, I learned that my time is extremely valuable and I need to manage it well to be as effective as possible.

3. Keep Good Time Records. One of the things I was most nervous about was learning how to keep time records. Since I came from a nonprofit, I had no clue how to record my time because I never had to do that before. All I kept thinking was, “How am I going to remember what I did every 15 minutes?” After a week or two, I started to understand how to log my time and keep good records. I learned, very quickly, to write down when I begin and finish each project. That way, I am fairly billing a client for my work, and I can see what I did instead of going off my memory.

4. Be Adaptable. I cannot stress how important it is to understand that your day in an agency is not cookie-cutter. For the first half hour you may be writing a news release for a client, then two minutes later you get an email from another client and you have to drop what you are doing to work on something for them. In the beginning, I would feel pressure when I would be forced to put something I was already working on on-hold, but that went away. In that moment, you have to judge what task is more time sensitive and then manage your time accordingly.

5. Have Fun! I have enjoyed this transition experience. I went from one fun work environment to another. I learned so much about myself already, and I want to keep the momentum going. Transitioning from one position to another can be scary, but you can also allow yourself to have fun at the same time. Get to know your coworkers and laugh every now and then. After all, what good is the new experience if you can’t share it with your coworkers, who are also going through the same transition?

The leap from nonprofit to agency, in hindsight, wasn’t what I thought it would be. I had enough clothes, I learned how to log my time and I have managed several clients at once. Although I have made some mistakes and learned a lot on how to work more efficiently, this experience has been worth every minute.

This post was written by PPRA Recruitment & Retention Chair, Darrah Foster. Darrah is a Senior Associate at Anne Klein Communications Group, where she is a member of account teams serving clients in several industries including healthcare, utilities and financial services. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

1 thought on “Top 5 Things I’ve Learned Moving From Nonprofit to Agency

  1. Great post, Darrah. So many environments can be so different and it does call for a bit of patience and a lot of observance as to what is the culture around you. The more we try, the more we learn about which cultures fit us best.

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