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Big Fish, Small Pond OR Small Fish, Big Pond?


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Today we’re going to take a step back from our usual coverage of ad campaigns, branding trends, marketing hijinks and so on to pull some focus back to the places that create these products- advertising, marketing and branding agencies.

For graduates and newcomers to the industry, there’s always the question of whether to start big or small. To be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond, that is the dilemma. It seems like a momentous, paralyzing type of decision that will make or break your life, career and future opportunities.

Of course, like all things in life there is no one size fits all solution. Whether a big or small agency is a better fit for you will depend a great deal on your personality, timing and of course, luck.

But to help you along, we’ve created this (by no means exhaustive) list of pros and cons of big and small agencies based on our own experiences.

When you go small…

Colleagues = family.
This frequently cited benefit is one of the best things about working in a small place. While this can be true of your team in a large agency, in a small space everyone truly feels like family. You’ll be working with people side to side, face to face, and with better camaraderie and less “politics” and drama, it may be easier to get work done.

Flatter organization.
When your boss is working right next to you, it’s easier to communicate and get his input. You won’t be at the mercy of hierarchies, things will move faster and the office will feel much less formal.

You’ll learn fast.
Sometimes, because of how few people are in a place, you’ll be asked to multi-task. Which means you’ll be pushed out of your comfort zone and end up developing more skills.

You have to be creative.
While big budgets can mean greater room for creativity, it’s when you have to do more with less that you need to be really creative. Smaller places are known to be braver, more agile and innovative because they have to be.

Greater flexibility.
Smaller places are generally more relaxed and you probably won’t find your boss freaking out if you’re not at your desk from 9-6. You may also enjoy greater work life balance. However, when it’s crunch time during the busy period, you may find yourself stuck in the office 24/7.

When you go big…

Opportunities are big.
Bigger brands, bigger budgets, your boss may be an industry big-shot, and even the parties are bigger. Big name clients look good in your CV as they automatically arrest more interest. Getting to touch many different kinds of projects means your scope of experience will widen. And if you have an idea that hits home, you may find yourself on the fast track to bigger and better things.

Greater diversity.
You’ll meet a LOT more people, both in the office and out. There will be a lot more people working on a single project and the benefit here is that there will truly be a profusion of perspectives which is very helpful when it comes to idea generation and reviewing work.

Prepare for the bureaucracy.
There will be processes and procedures for everything at a bigger place, a set way of doing things. While this lends a certain structure that may be reassuring, you may find it slow, pedantic and obstructive.

Got a point to add? Let us know!
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