Part 1: How to get a job in communications (and thrive)
A strange thing has happened recently; I seem to have reached the age and standing in my career where people start asking me for advice on how to be a copywriter or how to get a job in communications.
To be honest it always takes me aback slightly, not least because to my mind I’m still a young writer trying to make a niche myself and feel unworthy to bestow important advice. Then of course I remember that I’m hurtling towards thirty, have worked in comms for over five years and have been freelance for the last two, so maybe I do have some knowledge to spread. I guess we’ll soon find out, eh?
In order to write this blog I’ve tried to think of the sorts of questions that I’m asked most frequently, as well as the things that I wish I’d known after leaving my MA in Public Relations to enter the world of work. Hopefully it will give you a better idea of what to expect and what you need to do to make a career.
Often when I speak to students, graduates, and people interested in a career in communications the most pressing question is how to get a job in communications. It’s a simple question with a complicated answer. There’s no one good way to land a job, and some people land in roles more easily and quickly than others. It can be frustrating, but there are things that you can do to improve your chances of employment
Get as much experience as possible but don’t be taken advantage of
Without a portfolio of relevant work (and, more importantly, results) you may find that companies and agencies aren’t willing to take a chance on you and offer full time employment. You need to prove yourself and make yourself known first. That’s why it’s always good to arrange work experience and internships with as many organisations as you can. Agencies are an excellent place to cut your teeth, as they often need an extra pair of hands and will always be quick to provide feedback and point out where you’re going wrong.
Once you prove what you can do and how you can be valuable you will have a greater chance of being remembered and favoured when a position does come up. If agencies aren’t for you however, then you will at least have tangible proof of what you have and can do to take to inhouse departments.
Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of though. It’s best to set limited time periods for your work experience or internship from the outset so that you don’t become unfairly relied upon as unpaid or cheap labour and expected to get on with it with a smile whilst you’re trying to figure out how to get a job in communications that is permanent. You’re worth more than that, and if they want to keep you around then a new arrangement should be made. If they are unwilling or unable to do so then move on. Be ruthless and believe in yourself and your talents.
Make contacts and keep in contact
Making contacts is absolutely essential. The people that you work with now may become invaluable in finding you work further on down the line, and making good impressions on the people who visit the office is also good practice. Figuring out how to get a job in communications is the first step, but making contacts for the future is something you need to think about right away.
Before you get to that point where you are employed and making sure people notice you however, it’s also recommended that you try and make contact with relevant people who work in companies and agencies that you want to work at. This includes MDs, studio managers, marketing managers and anybody else you can think of who happens to have a LinkedIn or Twitter account and uses it frequently.
Engage them in conversation about their work and the information that they post and comment on the articles and viewpoints that they share, that way you can establish a relationship and show that you know your stuff at the same time. You are unlikely to be offered a job on the spot because of a few tweets or comments, but they will raise your profile in the eyes of agencies and departments. People will warm to you faster if they recognise you, that’s a fact. You can read a bit more about the importance of reaching out and making contacts here.
Find what you’re best at and focus on it
In order to land a job after graduation then there’s an incredibly strong chance that you will be expected to be able to do anything. You’ll be expected to be a digital wizard, a social warlock, an SEO mage and a PR wunderkind. Hopefully your training will have prepared you to some extent and you’ll have people above you who can guide you and help you grow into a genuine communications and digital marketing expert should you get the job. Sometimes however you will land at an established company that doesn’t quite get new marketing techniques or an agency that has grown, shall we say, ‘comfortable’ and expects the youth to take them forward.
Whichever happens to be the case then you need to try and assert yourself as quickly as possible. The fact is you’re not going to be the very best person available in each of these fields, and nobody should hire you expecting you to be. Everybody has areas that they are stronger in than others, and at the end of the day it’s these strengths that will have got you your job. Honing these skills, as well as any that it turns out you’re quite good at, is the best course for those in their first year or two of employment. If you particularly enjoy the organisation and relationship angles of PR for example, or you have a way with creating social media campaigns that get engagement, then start thinking of more ways that your talents can help your workplace. Gradually you will become the go-to person in those fields whilst others take up the slack where they are best suited to do so, creating a workplace of skilled professionals. When it comes the time to look for pastures new then you can clearly show why you are the person prospective employers need thanks to the value and results you’ve brought with your skillset.
That’s it for today, hopefully you now have a better idea of how to get a job in communications. Be sure to keep an eye out for part two; making the leap into freelancing.