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 around customer experience since I was 16, working as a waiter and shop assistant at the weekends, then into the 5-star hotel industry as a Reception Supervisor part time as I was at University. My degree is Environmental Geography, nothing even remotely linked to communications and public relations, but I'll share later on how it has helped me.
I then took a role as cabin crew for a UK airline and during this time, I had the opportunity to take a secondment in the business within the Compliance department, giving me a greater insight into the wider business. My housemate at the time who was also crew and on secondment with the Corporate Communications team provided me with my first insight into the profession, listening to the activities and event she was getting involved with.
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 and it felt like a massive knowledge gap existed between the remote worker community and the headquarters operation. I had been sending articles into the Corporate Comms team for the staff magazine to 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
You don't need to have a journalism or communications degree or background to join the internal comms profession and looking back on my journey, there are a range of skills that have helped me.
- Customer service – The majority of your role is about people, whether it's working with senior leaders, supporting line managers or understanding the needs of your frontline teams. Being 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 out your time in advance, there are continual curveballs that will come your way that you'll need to deal with. Throughout all my time working with customers I learnt this very early on in life, 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 would I have liked to know
Never in my time at school and 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 look back on all the opportunities I've had with fond memories, but it would have been interesting to have explored internal comms as a career path.
I definitely would have liked someone earlier in my working career to have shared more about the profession. The close ties between internal comms and employee engagement is certainly something I think more people would be interested in sooner if they knew about the profession. I think careers teams tend to focus more on HR for those that have an interest in working with people, yet internal comms has the same professional development opportunities from one day courses, through to diplomas and onto studying at masters level.
Come and get involved
If you're reading this I hope that you are already exploring the fantastic world of internal communications and I'd encourage you to take the first step and get involved in the many online IC 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 IC websites trying to find out more and I wish I got more involved sooner.
I run Horizon Comms, a resource site designed to support those new to the IC profession and have an online Guild group that's open for anyone to join here. Come and say hello, meet others that are at the start of their IC journey and ask questions as it's the best way to discover more. You can also follow me on Twitter @HorizonCommsUK where I share a wide range of resources to help those #NewtoIC.