Best Tips for Starting a Career in a Communication Agency

· Blog

A stimulating field, always on the move and attracting many recruits each year: you’ve probably guessed it, we’re talking about the world of communications!

In Quebec, there were over 310,000 university students in 2021-2022, and of that number, over 5,200 were enrolled in communication and journalism programs in the fall semester across all universities (French-speaking and English-speaking).1

Are you part of one of the recent cohorts, or are you interested in the field of communications? How can you find the path that suits you best, and how can you survive the industry’s challenges as a young recruit?

Are these some of the questions you’re asking yourself? If so, read on to learn about working in an agency.

Working in an Agency

When you hear the term “working in an agency,” what does that mean to you?

Often described as fast-paced, agency life allows you to work on all kinds of projects and interact with a multitude of people, all of whom are passionate.

The types of communication agencies vary depending on their specialization: public relations, media relations, crisis management, digital communication, influencer marketing, corporate communication, event organization, etc.

Of varying sizes, these agencies operating in the communications industry may target different markets. Still, they provide writing services, strategic advice, ideation, and support for brand, corporate, or organizational visibility efforts.

Roles in an Agency

Whether their approach is integrated or they have more niche expertise, agencies have diversified roles, including:

  • Development and implementation of communication plans, strategies, tactics, and campaigns
  • Relations with the media, stakeholders, target audiences
  • Brand identity, enhancing image and reputation
  • Issues and crisis management
  • Spokesperson training
  • Digital media management, content creation
  • Influencer marketing
  • Consumer needs analysis, market research
  • Media monitoring
  • Product launch and promotion
  • Customer retention
  • Event planning and management
  • Measurement and evaluation of campaign success
  • Client support and representation, proposing solutions tailored to their needs

Look at our Services sections to understand what Capital-Image offers.

Qualities Required for Working in Communications and an Agency

Depending on the agency’s specialization, the desired position, the business sector, and the organizational context, different skills, requirements, and combinations of qualities are sought during recruitment.

Having a degree related to the job that one applies for is generally an asset. In some cases, a multidisciplinary education combined with relevant experience (even voluntary or school-based) may be considered.

Moreover, agencies are increasingly interested incandidates with unconventional profiles. Several agency managers tend to select recruits who stand out from the crowd.

Regardless of the role you’re applying for, several qualities are essential. Among these, organizational and prioritization skills, resourcefulness, creativity, curiosity, and bilingualism are crucial.

Having a team spirit, enjoying being in contact withpeople, demonstrating autonomy, versatility, rigour, ethics, and judgment, having the ability to work on various projects simultaneously, knowing how to react quickly, and mastering digital tools are other skills valued in the profession.

Furthermore, additional skills will become essential over time, depending on the type of agency, such as writing, problem-solving, presentation, project management, and persuasion.

Excellent adaptability is essential in this constantly evolving professional environment. It is key to be open to change and learning.

Of course, you must be a good communicator! Mastering the art of communication is a skill that is acquired through experience.

However, the candidate must demonstrate that they possess written and verbal
communication skills, are convincing by adjusting the tone to the type of communication and the target audience, can make their communications
attractive, and know how to convey a message effectively.

And above all, agencies are looking for passionate individuals who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get to work!

Experience Shared by Léane and Judith

We asked two of our coordinators what helped them the most at the beginning of their careers. Here is what they had to say.

Léane and Judith, communications coordinators at Capital-Image

From left to right: Judith Lafleur and Léane Habel-Boivin

With a bachelor’s degree in communication and public relations, Judith specifies that her resourcefulness and ability to build relationships with people initially facilitated her tasks, allowing her to find the right people to ask questions to.

Today, what motivates her in her work? “To promote brands that I love and align with my values.”

For her part, Léane holds a Bachelor’s degree in organizational communication. Motivated by ensuring client satisfaction, generating media coverage, and obtaining positive team feedback, she felt well supported by her colleagues at Capital-Image, where she first completed an internship in 2023 before being hired as a freelancer.

In this regard, she says she had all the necessary guidance at the beginning of her career: “I find that there is a good gap between what we do in school and what happens in the field, so when we start our career, it is very reassuring to know that the team is behind us for any questions or advice.”

Survival Tips for Young Professionals

During your studies, an internship in an agency can open the door to a job while offering relevant first-hand experience.

Participating in school and extracurricular activities related to communications is also an excellent way to acquire new skills.

Discussing with industry specialists will also let you know which type of role suits you best. Experts in the field sometimes offer their help as mentors; seize this opportunity if you can!

Even if you’re starting your career, consider creating a portfolio with samples of completed projects, any relevant work done during internships or personal projects, and testimonials from colleagues, teachers, or people you’ve worked for.

Stay informed about current trends and stay ahead by taking an interest in new technologies shaping the profession. This advice will be valuable for your entire career!

Build a professional network by participating in networking activities, actively engaging in the community, and forming meaningful relationships with peers. For example, you could become a member of the Société québécoise des professionnels en relations publiques (Quebec Society of Public Relations Professionals). You never know what the future holds!

Judith agrees: “I would say not to be afraid to move around and seek different experiences to develop yourself and meet people because it is an industry where connections are important, and each agency or company has its own inner workings.”

Léane shares the same opinion: “Show your interest in projects and participate in various events and social gatherings organized in the field to meet new people and showcase your different strengths.” She also suggests doing all possible internships, starting to work, and getting involved as early as possible in this professional sphere: “It’s an environment where you have to stand out, so the earlier you start in the field, the more you make your place in the industry.”

Be patient: you won’t learn everything within a week! In this competitive, sometimes fast-paced landscape, prove your worth, show that you can be relied upon, and hone your skills by signing up for training and workshops. Remember that it’s normal to fail sometimes: even the biggest names in the industry have learned from their mistakes.

And last piece of advice: have fun! Find a job that will be just as stimulating both personally and professionally.

Choosing the Right Agency

Exploring options beforehand will facilitate your job search. Look into the agency and its specialization, the roles, tasks and projects available, and the benefits offered.

Favour an agency with an internal culture that aligns with your values. And remember, they’re not all the same! As described by some Capital-Image employees, some good agencies care about their team and open their doors to newcomers!

Moreover, both Judith and Léane were attracted by the diversity of mandates and clients, the friendly team environment, and the values of Capital-Image.

Building a communications and public relations career is a journey; even seasoned experts will tell you we never stop learning!

By remaining perseverant, patient, and proactive and looking for opportunities, you will rise to the challenge and carve out a place for yourself in this energetic and rewarding environment.