pros & cons: in-house or agency design?

I’m working my first job out of school doing in-house graphic design for a non-profit that pays rediculously well and offers lots of creativity, flexible hours, never overtime, and doesn’t require a non-compete agreement. I’m also anticipating a job offer in the next week from a small, but growing agency that would probably not pay much more than I’m making now, but I’d definitely be working longer hours on high-profile projects once I slog through the requisite production work period. To complicate it all, I’m having my first child in December. I’m concerned with advancing my career, but I also am concerned about doing what’s right for me and my family in the long run.

So my question to you is, what’s the resume value of agency experience versus in-house experience? Does a hire depend more heavily on a quality portfolio or the designer’s accustomed work environment? As far as portfolio work, is the quality more important than the exposure, or vice versa?

If you happen to be an art director or creative director, I’m especially interested in your perspective. I’m already leaning one direction, but whoever you are, I’d like to get your input. Thanks!

My gut feel is stay where you are. They are treating you well.

The thing about the agency. Find out about the staff. Is it a good balance and do people stay. It’s a bad sign if there are too many new faces. It means people either leave or are fired.

Why don’t you get the best of both worlds and do freelance and overload work for the agency. It gives you the security of your in-house employment and let’s you feel out the agency.

A win/win situation. The best would be to just keep going in-house and do freelance with the agency. You can adjust your workload with having a new child.

I don’t think it will work out well having a child and pressure cooker deadlines. If you really love the agency and do some freelance work for them you can always get a job with them in 3 years.

Quality work is always quality work. It would be different if you had ultra-tight restraints, but you state you have creative freedom.

My vote is stay put and do some freelance with the agency. If you are having a kid in December. I’m not sure the agency is aware of this and it’s just sounds like biting off too much and when you leave on maternity leave in December and it’s only May it sort of leaves the agency holding the bag.

Trust me, as the father of a 3mo. old, def. stay where you are! At this stage in your life, you don’t need, and won’t need, the added stress of long hours and tight deadlines. Sounds like you’ve got an OK thing going. Yeah, the work might not be the greatest, but you can always freelance to beef up the portfolio, once the dust settles from the new baby.

You really have no idea how much time a child demands until you have one!

Good luck!