Assume you're hired as a traffic manager. Does that mean that you're destined to be in traffic until you retire? Not at all. Assistants often become account people, creatives move into account services, media people move into account planning. The path isn't easy, but it happens all the time. Generally, there is no agency policy prohibiting interdepartmental movement. "It's really up to the supervisor," says an associate media director. "Some supervisors believe that if you're in media, you made your choice and that's that. To change, you have to leave the agency. But life is long, and supervisors come and go. I began my career in media, and after a couple of years I decided to switch to account work. My supervisor didn't have a problem. I made the switch and after a few months I realized that I hated it. I guess I didn't like being in the line of fire every minute of every day. I wanted out, and media welcomed me back with open arms."
Once you're working in an agency, especially if it's your first job, it's going to take a while to get a sense of what's going on. You may decide that you love what you do. Great! But if you don't, there's still hope. "I started in account services," says a former creative director. "It was fine, and I enjoyed it. But I also loved to travel and started writing about it. First, columns in my local paper and then travel books. I found that I really liked to write. I approached the creative director and he saw my work and offered me a job as a junior writer on a hotel account, at a lot less money. I took the risk, and it ultimately paid off."
Making friends in other departments helps facilitate internal movement. Jennifer, an account executive, started as an administrative assistant at a small agency and developed a good working relationship with her boss. When her boss left to take a higher-level position at a larger agency, her boss hired Jennifer as an assistant account executive, and Jennifer has never looked back. Doors are always open in ad agencies. Walk in and introduce yourself. Ask people about their jobs.