NextGen Public Affairs is a fabulous organisation of Public Affairs professionals who aim to give support to industry colleagues in the first 10 years of their career. Last week I was pleased to be on a team of 4 panellists for a Zoom event (very 2020) in which we discussed career development and in particular, the differences between working in-house and agency.
All 3 of the other participants had experienced both and we agreed that moving from agency to in-house is far easier than the other way around. And although there is a perception that moving in-house might be more limiting in terms of policy areas (the reality of this was disputed) there is valuable commercial perspective to be gained from experiencing a business from the inside – and that a range of career opportunities, even beyond public affairs, may extend from that.
The fact remains that agencies seeking mid to senior level folk will almost always insist on candidates having agency experience. The ability to attract new business is a key component and ultimately, agencies are risk averse on this issue, so unless you have a history of wins to point to (or particular sector experience that’s needed) lack of agency experience will usually be a deal breaker. While it’s understandable, it creates a frustratingly small pool of candidates for each role and overlooks the value of having client-side knowledge. However, if you’ve come from a Spad role in a major government department, your network and proximity to decision makers in the current administration does tend to negate this whole paragraph!
As your recruiter, I would always encourage job changers to look one step beyond this next move and properly consider where the job you’re about to take could lead you and if this ties in with your ultimate direction of travel. Career cul-de-sacs can often be spotted from an aerial view of the market, the position recruiters have, and not so easily in the thick of the trees – so get yourself a recruiter you trust and talk it through!
Here to help, so do drop me a line.