When I was a kid I always enjoyed a story. Hearing them, reading them, sharing them, creating them. That's in essence what we do in Internal Communications. No matter the business we work with it is about crafting the story of what we are trying to achieve together, helping people know the role they play and for all of us to feel we are part of it. How we do that and what we say may vary but in the simplest terms we are story tellers.
When I had finished education the jobs market was really tough. I ended up joining Standard Life in customer service. A brilliant role to understand a business and the people that pay our wages – our customers. I then started to get involved in local area communications and volunteering to take part in things. This let me build up my network and grew my interest in exploring formal communications roles within the company. It also made sure than when a role came up I had some great interview answers to use. I was lucky enough to secure a role and started my first proper communications job looking after internal and external communications. I worked my way up to managing a team but then got a great chance to move out of communications and into a business role working in the Chief Executive's office. That allowed me to broaden out hugely and see the bigger picture – almost like that moment in the story when there's a twist or you suddenly realise what has been going on all along.
I went on to work in areas including Strategy, Marketing and Customer Experience before moving back into communications. I was far stronger for all of that experience and knowledge. In my view, doing roles outside of communications give you skills and knowledge that will make you a better communicator. You can grow your understanding of the business in a different way and better know how it feels to walk in the shoes of your audience. You don't need a communications related qualification to gain that instinct and understanding – the courses like those just help you expand the things you can do to capitalise on your knowledge and make you better.
I've always tried to think of my career as a series of chapters in my own story – one leading on from another and always building on the plot points that have come before. Just because you start with something in mind doesn't mean you can't change as your story develops.
I've met loads of brilliant internal communications professionals over the years. None of their stories and paths have been the same and they've all found different ways to land in these roles. The one thing they do have in common is a genuine interest in people, a passion for understanding and a sense of purpose in taking what they hear and communicating it in a way that helps the people we work with to feel involved and part of something. If you have that then you already have what you need to start to write your own story in internal communications.