Seeing how they operated and experiencing their working culture firsthand was eye-opening. There are similarities but also differences, and my three months in the US has certainly challenged a few common US misconceptions.
Difference #1: Media is a more female-dominated space
On visiting agencies in the US, the majority of clients I met were female and many of them were younger women, with most fresh out of college. Instead of the 50:50 male:female ratio we generally see here, I would say it was more like 85% women.
It was great to see, especially knowing that these young, ambitious women were working their way up toward senior management.
Difference #2: Work/Life balance tips more in favour of work
People lead with their jobs in the US. Their personalities are very strongly linked with what they do for a living. That's not necessarily a negative thing, and one would hope this means they are happy and enjoying their work.
Although they work longer hours, friends and clients alike were not complaining -- it was very much the norm. The emphasis on work/life balance that is a key conversation point over here -- particularly at the moment -- didn't seem as important there.
Difference #3: Networking is reserved for the evenings
Longer work hours makes for a very different way of networking. It's not so much a daytime activity, but regularly begins and runs well into the evening. More frequently, people would go for drinks after work to talk shop, as opposed to using this time to unwind.
In the US, lunches with clients are less of a "thing" -- lunch and learn is more of a go-to networking tool (pitching to clients over lunch in their office). Dinners, I found, are also the main form of client entertaining.
Myth #1: Americans only have time for elevator pitches
The elevator pitch isn't something that I experienced -- certainly not in the media space. Business conversations in the US are similar to the UK. The teams I worked with were friendly and warm, and I didn't experience any of the intense, high-speed pressurised pitch process that is incorrectly synonymous with US sales.
Myth #2: American business is just full of jargon
Media is full of jargon, whether English and American. While there may be nuances between the two in practice, both the UK and the US use the same media terminology. Both countries trade internationally so terms have to be understood by everyone.
Myth #3: New Yorkers are rude
Actually, everyone was lovely and very welcoming -- they talked, listened and appeared to be interested in every conversation. Outside of the office I was also made to feel extremely at home. I did a lot socially with clients, which included a trip to a tattoo/piercing shop in Chelsea (certainly a new one for me!).
Myth #4: Americans are just about money, money, money
In my experience in the US, work and working culture is a lot more ingrained -- your job is part of your identity. So naturally, in conversation work crops up a lot more -- people are genuinely interested in your job and what that entails. They are interested in the details.
Yet just because they're interested in your job doesn't mean they're interested in your finances. Much like the UK, personal finances and earnings are a private thing and are rarely discussed. Rent, however, is a key topic of conversation -- and Manhattan rent is astronomical!