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Jobseekers: Insist on Hipness

By Tracy Cote
Talent Zoo

Looking for the right interactive agency job? I have two words for you: Hip Matters.

Things like company blogs, weekly cocktails and high-concept retreats are much more than fun perks; they're important markers of an interactive agency's culture - and they can tell you a lot about whether a job will position you for professional excellence or leave you stalled in a bad workplace sitcom.

So along with questions like what cool accounts you'll get to work on and whether the health plan covers IVF or acupuncture, there are five areas of a prospective employer's culture you should make sure to explore before signing on the dotted line.

Cultural Immersion

There's more to success than design principles, computer skills and copywriting chops. To do your best work, you need full immersion into your new work culture: how things get done, how people collaborate and the core philosophies that tie it all together. How will your new agency bring you up to speed?

For example, at Organic, we want our employees to understand how our agency creates empathy with consumers, gets into their hearts and minds, and speaks to their needs. So we invite about 30 employees each quarter to Camp Organic, a combination workshop/competition/adventure that puts our employees on the streets of Las Vegas to examine Consumerus Americanus in its natural habitat, then develop campaigns for a fictitious product based on their findings.

Back at the office, our All Hands internal blog helps people understand what's going on at the agency and why it matters, from the tools we're using to the fun we're having.

Professional Development
Smart agencies work to make their employees smarter. Will your new job help establish you not only as an agency staffer, but also as a communications industry expert? Education is a big part of this, of course - not just the software classes you can get anywhere, but also more strategic sessions that prepare you for the next step in your career.

Another approach: Organic's Three Minds blog reaches an audience far beyond our company, giving our employees the opportunity to develop and showcase their insight into the broader culture within which we operate, from the evolution of the game show to the YouTube-ization of presidential politics.

Life-Work Balance
Okay, sure. Back in the dot-com days, you got the impression that some companies spent more time playing foosball than focusing on the business at hand (and we saw how well that worked out). But there's still a lot to be said for an agency that sees you as a complete human being.

Little touches like pet insurance, dry cleaning, massage and even on-site nail care can keep your stress level low so your creativity stays high. And don't take standard options like weekly cocktails and bagel breakfasts for granted, either. You never miss them until they're gone - and then you miss them a lot.

Internal Networking
At some firms, an org chart box can feel like a steel cage. It's a lot more rewarding - and productive - when you can easily build relationships and collaborate throughout the company. This kind of cross-pollination can take place both physically, in an environment with plenty of casual meeting areas rather than fishbowl conference rooms, and virtually. "Organism," our internal social wiki, lets our employees create digital personal spaces where they can share their work and workplace experiences, express ideas and interests, explore and grow across disciplines, and brainstorm with their colleagues. It raises their profile at the agency, it makes them more effective at their jobs and it builds the kind of communities that great campaigns come from.

That's right - contrary to popular opinion, we agency types do have values. Does your prospective employer give you a chance to act on yours? The moral benefits of green offices, social awareness programs, pro bono projects and a commitment to corporate responsibility can be just as important as 401(k) matching and bring-your-dog-to-work privileges. Being proud of the organization you work for beats wearing a Bad Guys Inc. pass card any day.

Is this all adding up to a lot to ask for? It should. Your job hunt is a rare opportunity to make fundamental changes in your work life. And if the hippest places to work are also the most professionally fulfilling - why waste your career anywhere else? is the online destination for both job seekers and employers in the communications industry. It's also a must for up-to-the minute content on industry trends, news, career guidance, or just to schmooze. Find a better life with Talent Zoo (

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