I'm used to blank looks when I say I work in internal comms, so I was more than ready for the students' responses at a careers event I took part in this week.
From being an #IChoseIC ambassador, I'm connected to an organisation called Inspiring the Future. Every so often, an opportunity to talk to young people about my job lands in my inbox, and this time it was a cross between speed dating and a careers talk at Myton School in Warwick.
A sea of desks were laid out, people from all sorts of careers and walks of life took a seat, and then the students filed in and chose someone to ask questions to for five minutes. In typical speed dating style, a whistle blew to move them onto the next desk once their time was up.
First things first though, where was I sat? The school had laid out columns of desks and labelled each according to high-level profession. There were places for the service sector, transport, finance, education and a few more. I was given a desk in the 'Mystery' column. So already it was clear that even the teachers didn't know what I did, although I took heart from the fact that I could be sitting with someone from MI5 (I was actually sat in front of someone who worked in Risk, but you never know – it might have been a cover up).
In the students came, and we got going. All in all I spoke to around 30 young people who are just at that stage where they're deciding on their next move after A Levels. Typically not many of them knew that our role existed, so I had the pleasure of describing the brilliant work we do, and the value we bring to our business.
Of course I threw in the fun stuff, but I also described the value we bring – how we engage colleagues with business strategy, help them to connect with our purpose and really enable them to give their best every day by understanding the importance of their role. I talked about working with everyone, from customer-facing colleagues to the Chief Exec. And in response to "what does a typical day look like?", delighted in telling them that our role was so varied we don't have a normal routine – we're creative, adaptable and get stuck into all sorts on a daily basis.
Occasionally there was the odd magic moment, where somebody already knew what we do, and how much they'd like to join us. One student already has internal comms work experience lined up, and another asked me about work experience at my organisation.
And for a good number of others, their faces lit up (which was difficult to achieve when they might have first thought I was a spy) and they made a note to go away and read more about internal comms as a career.
Others, of course, were difficult to reach because they already had a career path in mind. But nevertheless I enjoyed talking about internal comms and waxed lyrical to them anyway, until that whistle blew.
This event was a fantastic opportunity to try and inspire a next generation of internal comms experts. So many of them are developing transferable skills that would fit in brilliantly with what we do. We just need to raise awareness of internal comms as a career of choice and shout about what we do. So I'll carry on being an #IChoseIC ambassador and I'll look out for more opportunities to share our story. I hope you'll join me too.