In this situation, it's all about how you market yourself.
While their first tendency may be to consider candidates with previous agency experience, agencies also look for candidates with key industry backgrounds, the ability to manage programs and staff, and the right attitude.
When evaluating an agency where you want to work, look at its niche, and play up your assets. Many agencies specialize in a particular industry, which provides an opportunity to highlight your subject-matter expertise. For example, if you're applying with an agency specializing in transportation and you previously provided communications support at an automotive company, demonstrate how your knowledge can help service the agency's accounts - and bring in new business. If you were a communications manager where you coordinated everything from corporate events to media relations to crisis management, highlight your ability to multitask and perform under pressure. Also, if you've managed individuals or teams, be sure to mention that. Finally, express your willingness to learn the agency culture.
A good agency will value subject expertise, management ability, and a creative, can-do attitude; learning to work in an agency environment will follow.
Kim Skeltis is APR, MD and SVP of Stratacomm.
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