I got a note from a friend a few weeks ago. It was a story I’ve heard before.
“I’m burned out on my agency job.”
This friend went on to talk about how she has been putting in long hours (50-60/week plus travel), which was putting significant pressure on her family, and taking a toll on her health.
This particular friend also said she’s not spending enough time with her young children since accepting this agency job.
In other words: The agency job is stretching her to her absolute limit.
Like I said, it’s a story I’ve heard before. Heck, it’s a story I’ve LIVED before.
During my time at a small agency in St. Paul 7-8 years back, I had a similar experience.
I took an agency job–my first real PR agency job–and couldn’t be more excited. The work was fun. The people were fun. Everything was great.
Then we had our second kid.
A daughter. She rocked our worlds in more ways than one.
But, more than anything, I was just required at home more. For my wife. For my kids. And, to be honest, for me.
I wanted to be the kind of Dad who was around. You know, REALLY around. I wanted to walk the kids to school (we live a block from our grade school). I wanted to eat breakfast AND dinner with them every day. I wanted to coach their basketball teams. I wanted to read books before bedtime. I wanted it all.
And why shouldn’t I? I mean, they’re my kids. I only get one shot at this.
But that didn’t exactly jive well for me and work. Now, the hours weren’t all that crazy. They really weren’t. But the demands were. I was stressed. And as a result, I was missing out on stuff at home. I was just out of whack.
Something needed to change–and that something was my job. So, I quit. And took another (less stressful) job.
Fast forward 7 years, and I’ve figured some things out. I figured out how to manage my schedule better. I figured out how to manage clients and colleagues better. I figured out a lot of things.
But, the schedule demands are still insane.
My kids still have soccer starting at 6 p.m. each night.
My kids are still at school/daycare for more than 9 hours a day (on a good day).
My kids still have doctors appointments and other things they need to do during the day.
In short, the schedule just changes as the kids get older–it doesn’t get any easier.
Meanwhile, the schedule demands of agency life don’t change either.
Clients still have (sometimes) unreasonable deadlines.
New business pitches often require you to work well into the evening.
Client travel sometimes has you spending days away from your kids.
This combo platter of insane kid/family demands at home and similarly insane demands by agencies and their clients puts new and young parents in a precarious position.
Buck up and figure it out.
Or, find a less stressful corporate job.
I’ve seen plenty of people buck up and figure it out. These are the people I admire–they found a way to figure it out. They’re smarter than me, I’ll say that much. But I’m still not sure I know how they do it. I’ve figured out how to do it on my own, but I tend to think that’s a bit different than working for someone else on the agency side. Who knows–I do know I’m FAR better equipped to handle the pace and stresses of agency life than I was 7 years ago when my daughter was born.
I’ve seen some people quit. Stay home with the kids. Just take a break. Certainly no shame in that. None.
And, I’ve seen plenty go the corporate route, hoping for a less crazy pace. Hoping for less business travel. Hoping they can somehow make it home by 5:30-6 each night to eat with their kids.
But, in the end, these folks are in a tough spot, too as corporate jobs come with their own set of challenges.
I don’t say this to rail against agencies. It’s just an observation after seeing so many friends go through this situation.
I’m not sure what the solution is–I’m not an agency owner, nor do I pretend to be one.
But, I’d love to hear from agency owners about how they feel about this. What ARE the solutions? What’s been working, and what hasn’t?