Confessions of a young media buyer: ‘I got PTSD’

This article is part of our Confessions series, in which we trade anonymity for candor to get an unvarnished look at the people, processes and problems inside the industry. More from the series →

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The agency world is plagued by long hours and small paychecks for young employees. In our latest Confessions, where we exchange anonymity for honesty, a young media buyer describes the lack of work-life balance at an agency.

So you have a new job now, what made you make the switch?
At my old agency, we had too much work and not enough people. There wasn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. We needed, like, six more people to do all the work. It was crazy. My old agency was known to pay lower salaries but had a good work-life balance. But the longer I worked there, the worse the work-life balance got. People kept leaving and then they were losing clients. When I first started, there were 35 people, and when I left there were, like, 14, and we were still expected to churn out the same amount of work. Two people were let go, the rest left and they weren’t able to rehire fast enough. People got offers from other agencies that would pay them more, so they left, and so did I.

How much were you making then?
We were definitely underpaid and overworked. When I left, I was making $47,500. I negotiated myself a 25 percent increase when I moved to my current job.

How much better is your current job?
I got PTSD from my old job when I left for my new one. My body didn’t know how to cope with not constantly being stressed and also being treated poorly by my boss. My old boss used me as a whipping post. If anything went wrong, I was somehow the one who got yelled at. He took all his frustration out on me. It was not fun.

What is your current agency doing differently?
Work-life balance used to be an issue at my current job, but they’ve made a lot of strides to make it better. Work is now structured so that there’s a period of time where we have to work more hours and over the weekend. It’s about four stressful months out of the year. It’s very manageable because you know there is an end in sight and it’s not a forever type of thing.

Overall, do you view a lack of work-life balance an issue that permeates the industry?
There are some people who are paying attention and making the necessary changes, but I wouldn’t call it a trend. I’m one of the lucky ones now.

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