There’s something to be said for working your way up at a creative agency – more responsibility, possibly better projects and of course, more money!

If you’re happily working away at your role, there’s a good chance that achieving a promotion is high on your list of goals – good for you! However, agencies do tend to foster competitive environments and it’s likely others are looking for that promotion too.

How can you be the person to stand out and give yourself the best chance of being promoted?

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Be Willing

How willing are you to step up wherever necessary? Creative agencies can (and have been known to) be a breeding ground for prima donna types, or those who think they’re above certain tasks. Be the humble one who is willing to get stuck in and you’ll be appreciated!

This does not mean hovering in the background and never being in a position where you are given credit for the good work you do. You should be conspicuous about being one who is always willing to give something a go, even if that means being the grip for an advertising shoot or being the one who volunteers for some of the more tedious jobs.

By being willing, you’re letting people know that you don’t consider yourself above others or above mucking in to get jobs done. You are willing and able to do what it takes for the success of the agency.

Keep Learning

One of the qualities of a star employee is having the willingness to learn and keep up with new developments. How do you keep your creative “bank” stocked? Do you read up on the latest trends, technology and market news? Do you actively look for ideas?

Even if it’s keeping abreast of any digital changes that impact your work, the agency staffer who is proactive about learning is more valuable than those who wait to be spoon-fed.

Having the ability to speak up and share your knowledge is another valuable trait for employers. Promotions tend to be given to people who are able to take the lead with ideas and with organizing others. Your knowledge can help you go from being one of the pack to one with future leader potential.


Anatomy of a Creative Agency. Source:

Be A Positive Influence

If you’ve ever worked in a “snarky” kind of office environment, you will understand how quickly an atmosphere can head downhill. Negative people often feed off each other, building a septic environment that starts to affect the moods of others.

It’s easy to end up joining in – people seek to find common ground and cameraderie. Next time you’re tempted to respond with a bit of snipe yourself, try catching yourself and thinking about how you can reverse the atmosphere to a positive one.

As this Lifehack article suggests, it often comes down to your own attitude and body language. Smile, avoid gossip, foster a grateful attitude and be diplomatic. This includes using those old-fashioned manners that you were probably taught since childhood. You’re never above using your manners!

Collaborate with Others

How well you collaborate with others is huge for creative agencies. Everyone has their “wheelhouse,” so make sure you round up appropriate expertise for ideas or share your own knowledge with them where asked.

This means if you’re in a larger agency, don’t necessarily stick to your own department. Build relationships with others who are able to help you put ideas together. Communicate well and make sure your boss is updated with what you’re up to.

Have a Contingency

If you’ve been at an agency long enough, you will recognize that the best-laid plans can go awry. Be the person who can calmly sort through a crisis and has a back-up plan for anything that could go wrong.

This means taking that extra step with your work – what could go wrong here? What could I do about it? You want to be known as someone who remains level-headed and on-task.

Be Diligent With Your Work

The person who rushes to turn in work that has sloppy mistakes is probably not the first on the promotion list. Maintain high standards and check your work thoroughly before passing it on. Your boss should always be seeing your best work and you should be able to explain how or why you’ve done what you did. Creative bosses like to see sweat equity!


Pretty sure this won’t get you promoted… Source: Digital Synopsis

Where Does Your “Personal Share Price” Sit?

I was on a graduate program when I first came across this concept. If you think of yourself as a brand with stock, the price of those shares is determined by the factors that make you a good brand to invest in, or not.

For example, do you produce excellent work? Do you work well within the team? Are you punctual and polite? Are you reliable and helpful? Do you dress appropriately so that you convey the right image within the company?

It’s an interesting part of creative agencies; things like the dress code are often thought to be more relaxed for creatives, which is sometimes true. However, if you work within a more “old school” agency, your casual garb will not impress those more senior, who are likely the ones who have a say over promotions. Your share price will often plummet in their eyes.

Your behavior at work social functions can often be a factor, too. We’ve talked previously about avoiding the “CLM” or Career Limiting Move; if you’re the one who’s a drunken mess at work events, it doesn’t usually look good for being promoted.

It’s become rather cliche in this day of reality TV drama to talk about “brand you”, but whichever way you look at it, your personal brand (or personal share price) plays a huge role in how you may be placed to snag that promotion. Do you have any factors that may be weighing your share price down?


The pitch is the bread and butter for any creative agency. If you want to be known as an “idea person,” you need to be pitching, whether or not you think you’ll only be shot down (hey, learning to manage that is a big part of agency life!).

Keep it real, though. If you’re going to make a pitch be serious about it and do your homework beforehand. Make sure you are coming forward with a well-formed idea that includes detail such as cost and execution.

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Final Thoughts

Look, no one wants to be seen as the office suck-up, but quietly standing back is unlikely to get you the promotion, too.

Want a promotion? You need to be noticed in a good light by those more senior than you who can make promotional decisions. Be willing, keep learning, collaborate with others and be a positive influence in the workplace.

If you have good ideas, make the pitch! At the very least it gives you good practice and could provide you with some feedback. Those who don’t try won’t be noticed and those who aren’t noticed… well, you know.