Top tips for newbie comms people!

We’ve all been there in our comms careers when we’re just starting out and we’re feeling a bit overwhelmed struggling to figure out where to begin.  Over the years I’ve given quite a bit of advice and shared some top tips with comms newbies on things they can do to give their CV a bit more of an edge. I thought it might be useful to share them via this blog –  I hope they help in some way:

Volunteer

This is always a bit contentious as I know there are some organisations who can take the mick a little bit by abusing your skill and demanding a lot for no pay. But if your CV is looking a bit light in terms of real life experience then I highly recommend that you do some volunteering work to get you going. I’m not saying you need to give up lots of time for free but even if you do one day a month, that will help boost your CV.

There are plenty of different ways you could volunteer your time, I personally prefer helping out charities who are seeking some short-term help. The best website I’ve come across is https://mediatrust.org/ – they post regular job posts from various charities looking for support from people who have comms/media knowledge.

Join a professional body

I know there are some people who are completely against joining a professional body but it’s one of the best things I’ve done for my career (see video below about my CIPR membership)

Whether it’s CIPR, PRCA, IABC, IOIC – or any other four letter acronym body ;-), just as long it works for you and your career path.

A professional body membership will also support you in your Continuing Professional Development (CPD), something you need to maintain if you want to keep growing as a professional. It’s important you don’t look at it as an expense but more of an investment in you.

CV checker

I’d definitely recommend you get your CV looked at by someone who works in the role you want to do or the business you want to join. They will be able to give you some top tips and guidance on the skills that are missing. It may be awkward at first in approaching someone but if you don’t ask you won’t get. Just make sure you’re polite with your request and don’t bombard them for help.

Think about your online brand

A few of my friends work in the recruitment field and they are always sharing stories at the rookie errors some people still make with their online platforms. So, make sure your profile on your platforms are up-to-date and your spelling/grammar are on point. Think about your profile photo, a photo of you downing shots at your mates party and looking like you couldn’t string a sentence together doesn’t give the best impression of you.

It’s also worth double-checking your security settings on the profiles you prefer not to give public access to. You’d be surprised at the things that can be found by a quick google search. Even though most people are quite savvy these days I’m still surprised at some email addresses that I’ve come across, I would strongly suggest you change it to your name if you’re going to be sharing it with recruiters, having something like sexybeast32@hotmail.co.uk, may raise a few laughs but it may hinder your chances in getting an interview.

Get yourself a blog

Blogging is a great way to share your knowledge and showcase a bit more about who you are plus it’ll also allow you to practice your writing skills. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking posting your first blog but once you’ve taken that leap the rest will be easy!

Network!

Get to as many networking events as you can – I can’t stress this enough. Each professional body tends to have them and you don’t always have to be a member to attend (NB: IoIC have recently launched FutureNet, a network dedicated to new and upcoming comms professionals).

However, if you can’t get to the events or find them a bit expensive then seek out social media comms conversations that take place regularly, it’s a great environment to raise your profile and showcase your knowledge, my favourite ones are:

  • #CommsChat on Monday 8pm
  • #PowerandInfluence Wednesday 8pm
  • #CommChat Wednesday 9am (Pacific Time)
  • #ICBookClub first Tuesday every other month at 8pm (3 July for the next one)

The fabulous Arianne Williams has done a comprehensive list here that you can check out for more online chats: http://arianneonline.com/2018/06/18/social-media-chats-pr/

Be the change you want to be

If you can’t find an event to suit you then there is nothing stopping you in pulling together your own networking event. Drop a note to a few local people and see if they would like to connect over a coffee and chat comms. You’ll be amazed on who can meet and the connections you can make.

Let me know if you have any more tips for any newbies who are starting out? Or maybe you’ve just started in your career, what are your top tips?

My top three takeaways from The Big Yak

I went along to one of the best Internal Comms events of the year, The Big Yak, on Saturday. I absolutely loved every single minute and I could have spent many hours talking non-stop about comms and everything in-between. I LOVE these types of events as they are just so relaxed and informal – the best thing about it being an unconference.

The Big Yak

This year I helped the wonderful IC Crowd team with their ticket management. To watch the tickets fly off the shelf within minutes was something I’ll never forget. It just goes to show how many fabulous people there are in the world of comms, who would give up their Saturday, to talk about the ‘work’ they do Monday to Friday.

I’m still on a ridiculous high from the event and I’m so grateful that these three wonderful people take time out of their extremely busy schedules to host something so spectacular!

Jenni, Rachel and Dana – The IC Crowd

I always learn something new at this event and this year was no exception. Here are my top three lessons and ‘take-aways’ I gained from the day:

Update your CV

If you’re looking to progress in your career into a sector you’re not familiar, then seek out the senior comms person from that field and ask if they will check over your CV to see where the gaps are.

I couldn’t agree more with this piece of advice. I think often we can fall into a trap of not really understanding the skills gaps properly and getting some advice from someone who has been there or is currently where you want to be is gold dust. I also like to read Job Descriptions for roles I’d like to do in the future so I can see what I’m missing in my skill set.

It’s also always a great idea to update your CV every three months or so, whether you’re looking for a new job or not, as it’s easier to keep track of your successes.

Gain some coaching skills

This was a contribution I made in one of the sessions where we were discussing building relationships with the Exec team. The best piece of advice I ever received was to gain core skills in coaching as it’ll help when you’re having conversations at senior levels.

I was lucky to work on a coaching and mentoring scheme early on in my career so was able to get some training. It’s probably the best training I’ve ever made the most use of throughout my career. Coaching teaches you how to listen more actively, how to ask the right questions and also how to gather the right information – some of the top skills you need to be a trusted adviser.

It’s not about becoming a full-blown coach at all but the behaviours and skills you learn in these coaching sessions will pay dividends in the future.

Measure your impact

Measurement! This is still a grey area for a lot of Internal Communication professionals and it was probably one of the most popular sessions on the day so the interest is certainly there.

I’m a bit of a data geek so I love looking at various stats and to see where we can make the correlation with Internal Communications and the behaviours we are helping to influence across the business.

In my last role we used a performance dashboard that showed leaders what impact we were having on certain key objectives across the business and it allowed us to add value to the conversations taking place. We’re in a unique position in IC as we get an overview of most of the departments in the organisation. Sometimes you have to look in the most obscure places to get hold of your data but you’ll be surprised what’s out there when you start digging round.

One key question I always asked before a campaign starts is ‘what behaviours are you expecting to see change in order for you to know its success?’ You’d often find that teams keep track of their own data which you could piggy back on for your dashboard. I contributed to a blog that the lovely Helen Deverall wrote a few weeks ago which talks more about measurement.

I hope you found that useful – if you went along to the Big Yak what were your top three takeaways?. If there is anything you want to talk about further or if you just want to connect then you can find me over on LinkedIn or over on Twitter.

Be proud of who you are…

A slightly different personal blog from me today.

A few months ago I was named in the Northern Power Women #FutureList. To say it was a huge surprise to me is the understatement of the year, I had to read the email twice when it popped up in my in-box as I wasn’t sure it was meant for me. When I initially mentioned this to my family and friends I kind of did it with a bit of humour. Not because I wasn’t proud, in-fact I was bursting with pride but mostly because deep-down I felt I didn’t really deserve it and I thought they might think the same.

Screenshot 2018-06-03 14.34.29
NPW #FutureList

It was a weird one for me as I’m such a champion of people believing in themselves and never apologising for who they are, yet here I was feeling a little embarrassed about being on this list compared to what all the other fabulous people had achieved.

Around this time I was also going through a bit of a crisis of confidence, various factors contributed towards it but I did start questioning whether or not I was as good enough to do what I was doing.

Then around a month ago I was talking to someone who was just starting out in their career. They asked me one simple question: What keeps you motivated? – this one question helped put things in perspective for me.

My parents came over from India and Kenya more than 45 years ago. It’s the common immigrant story, they came with nothing and worked extremely hard to make sure my sister and I had everything we possibly needed. They worked 18 hour days, 7 days a week, 365 days a year so we never got the opportunity to have family holidays to Disney or Spain and we spent our holidays helping in the family business.

We also lived in an area of Manchester that didn’t really like the fact we were Asian and we faced racism every single day for 12 years. We had fireworks through the letterbox, the house set on fire, racist graffiti on the windows, chants telling us to go home and cars vandalised (in fact the day after my parents bought me my little Peugeot 106 for my 18th it was completely trashed). We had panic alarms installed, CCTV and the police were becoming regular visitors.

School wasn’t great either but I seeked solitude in the music department. I often jokingly share a stories about how the recorder saved my life, as I’m not quite sure what would have happened to that geeky Indian girl if I didn’t have the music department to hide in (thanks to a teacher who saw me sitting (hiding) behind the music block). I obviously didn’t love school, teachers were distracted by the bullies and I was an average student. Average in the sense I wasn’t an A* student nor was I failing or mis-behaving. The forgotten group who just plodded along hoping to leave school without too many scars.

When I relate this back to friends or colleagues they have a look of sympathy and disbelief that we actually went through all this growing up. However, as strange as it may sound I don’t think I’d change anything as it’s made me who I am today – I realised that these blips in life were/are my motivators to keep working hard and to give me the kick I need when I’m feeling sorry for myself. It also gives me the power to keep fighting and not allow myself to be a victim.

No matter what life throws at you, just remember one thing – no one can take away your knowledge. It doesn’t really matter what’s going on round you, if you keep working, learning and investing in yourself you will succeed. Without this knowledge I wouldn’t be working in a career I adore, I wouldn’t have been able to start my property business and most importantly I wouldn’t be who I am today. Take every opportunity that’s thrown at you and don’t allow anyone or anything drag you down.

Sure you may not be a CEO or MD at the age of 35 but it doesn’t make you any less worthy of your accolades, everyone has had a different path to get to where they are and you should be extremely proud of yours – I just needed that one question to remind me  – so yeah, I’m on the Northern Power Women #FutureList, I totally deserve it and I couldn’t be prouder.

Huge shout out and thanks to my parents and my sister – my heroes – who have been with me every step of the way, throwing out encouraging words and a listening ear…none of what I’ve achieved could have been done without you!