Millennial staffers at agencies seek work-life balance and strong supervisors

It's true what they say about millennial staffers: They are driven by the desire to do good in the work they do, and they want to know their voices are being heard.

That said, the reasons millennials, who range in age from 18 to 34 years old, end up working in healthcare advertising agencies are similar to those of the senior leaders who created and built the industry. Many say they fell into jobs or internships within the industry, stuck around for a while, and then discovered they loved it.

Jessica Hill, an account supervisor at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide, is one such example. She double-majored in biology and economics at Pennsylvania State University. A plan to become a doctor eventually led to an interest in using behavioral insights to work with patients. She started at Ogilvy in 2011 in a research position before moving into account management.

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“It's interesting how many connections I was able to draw,” she said, referring to her double major.

Stephanie Robinson, a senior account manager at The Bloc, was awarded an internship at Juice Pharma Worldwide after attending an event for women who work in healthcare while she was a sophomore at Temple University's Fox School of Business and Management.

“I didn't know healthcare agencies even existed,” she noted. “Juice is making healthcare look ‘sexy,' and it garnered my interest.”

In October, Hill, Robinson, and about 100 of their peers from various healthcare agencies attended the Young Executives Night Out, a networking and educational series created by the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame. The annual event, held in downtown New York, brings together agency staffers, current leaders of firms, and MAHF inductees to share best practices and provide seminars aimed at educating professionals in the early stages of their healthcare advertising careers.

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Despite the differences for professionals starting their careers in healthcare advertising now versus those who entered 50 years ago, there are also a number of similarities.

“I didn't know what in the world I wanted to do,” C. Marshall Paul, a 2016 MAHF inductee and the former president of ACNielsen/HCI, recalled during a panel discussion at the event.

Another issue was work-life balance. Lester Barnett, a founding principal of FCB Health and 2004 MAHF inductee, described himself as a workaholic who retired in his early 50s to pursue his other interests, such as acting and writing.

Steve Girgenti, founder of Ogilvy Healthworld, talked about flying to Australia to meet a client for dinner and how he sometimes considered handling the work-life balance differently because of how it affected his family.

The honesty was refreshing for Hill. “Our generation has a sense of deserving things,” she said. “I worked my butt off. But if I'm doing that, it does make an impact.”

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Many of the young staffers agree one of the biggest challenges in their careers has been learning the delicate balance of when to speak up and when to listen. Robinson noted she has worked with good managers who thrive on nurturing “that balance and freedom of expression.”

Austin Bald, an account executive at TBWA\WorldHealth, said getting face to face with senior leadership has proven invaluable, and his supervisors have been willing to take on a mentorship role. However, he still had to learn about the right — and wrong — times to speak up.

“I knew I had to change my perspective. The agency brought me in because they valued my specific insight and opinion,” he explained. “To be as valuable as possible, I knew I had to start speaking up more, and make sure that I was voicing my opinion on client-critical situations.”

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