Like many people working within internal communications, I never even knew the profession even existed until I saw the advert for my first internal comms job. My experience up until this point had been focused on customer experience.
At 16, I worked as a waiter and shop assistant at the weekends, then stepped into the 5-star hotel industry as a Reception Supervisor whilst as I was at University. My degree is actually in Environmental Geography, nothing even remotely linked to internal communications, but I’ll share later on how it has helped me.
I then took a role as cabin crew and had the opportunity to take a secondment with the safety team, giving me a greater insight into the organisation. My housemate at the time was also crew and on secondment with Corporate Communications team and this provided me with my first insight into the profession.
When I went back to flying, I felt as though I was missing out knowing about what was happening in the rest of the organisation. It showed me there was a knowledge gap between the remote worker community and the organisation. I started sending in articles for the staff magazine to try and give the cabin crew community a little more spotlight. A few months later, an Internal Comms Officer vacancy went live and since then, I’ve never looked back.
Bringing your skills into the profession
I don’t believe you need to a journalism or communications qualification or background to join the internal comms profession. Looking back on my journey, there are a range of skills that have been transferable including:
- Customer service – The majority of your time is about supporting colleagues, whether it’s working with senior leaders, supporting line managers or understanding the needs of your frontline teams. Been able to actively listen, understand their needs, manage expectations and communicate effectively is a skill I learnt from when I first started out as that 16-year-old waiter. Now, I’m able to apply my experiences of managing tricky customers into the workplace as it’s no different – you’ll have stakeholders that will be more demanding than others that you’ll need to manage in different ways.
- Statistical analysis – The majority of my degree was about the physical world around us, so I spent many hours testing soil samples, measuring pollution and doing statistical analysis, so mostly working with numbers rather than words. Yet, all this has given me an excellent grounding when it comes to measurement and exploring solutions as I can apply a different approach to tasks using scientific methods. The use of data analysis is something that’s growing within the profession so having people that enjoy working with numbers and data adds a great deal of value.
- Managing priorities – No matter how good you plan your time in advance, there are curveballs that will come your way. I learnt this very early on in my customer service career, you have to always expect the unexpected and importantly, keep your focus. Handling unexpected situations is something many of us face in our different roles and it’s a big part of working within communications.
What I wish I knew about sooner
Never in my time at school or university did the words public relations ever arise in conversations. I think marketing might have done but internal communications certainly never did. I wouldn’t say now that I wish I’d taken a different approach to my career as I have many fond memories.
I definitely would have liked someone to have shared more about the profession. The close ties between internal communications and employee engagement is certainly something I think more people would be interested in exploring as a career. Often the focus for careers teams is more on human resources for those that have an interest in working with people, yet internal comms has the same professional accreditation. You can attend short workshops through to diplomas, gaining Chartered practitioner status and even studying at masters’ level.
If you’re reading this, I hope that you are already exploring the fantastic world of internal communications. I’d encourage you to take the next step and get involved in the many online groups that exist, giving you the chance to network and learn. We’re a friendly bunch and it wasn’t that long ago I was sat trawling through the various websites trying to find out more and I wish I got more involved sooner.