Career Chat: How did I get here?

I started writing a blog post last year about my career at a time when I was back on the job market, chatting to recruiters, reading job descriptions, scheduling and attending interviews and it started a little reflection process of my career, how I got to where I am and where I hope to go from here.

The post went into the backburner as I got a job working for a charity and I completely forgot to finish this post and now that I’ve come across it again, I thought “hmm… why not revive it?”. I want to start a series about careers, with a focus on communications and marketing and I’m kicking it off with a bit about what I do and what comms and marketing is.

A little job history and what I do

I guess I would describe myself as a communications and marketing all-rounder; my passion lies in digital and internal communications and I absolutely love words and the power of using it to influence and change. Back when I was trying to work out what I wanted to do with myself in terms of career, I never would’ve picked this career path, mainly because I didn’t know it existed. I knew I wanted to write and be creative so that led me to the wonderful and exciting world of journalism.

While I had an amazing time studying journalism, it’s an extremely competitive market to get into in New Zealand and I wasn’t too keen on the idea of being somewhat restricted on what you can investigate and/or write about. I spent a year after graduation working in a café and well, living my best life. Eventually I moved on to working in a call centre and it was there I discovered the wonderful world of comms and marketing.   

It’s been an exciting journey filled with blood, sweat and tears (yes, literally) but I wouldn’t change the experience for anything.

What is communications and marketing?

I’ve been in the comms and marketing game now for about four years and I sometimes struggle to answer this question. I personally would say it’s a about being an advocate for the people in a business and ensuring that we’re getting the right kind of media, content and messages out. In some way, we are the voice of the audience we are targeting in a business.

Comms and marketing is all about channels – from traditional print media to digital advertising and social media. Some people choose to focus on a channel when they build their career, for example, digital media marketing so using online channels to market and some people stick to traditional print. There are also people who choose to focus on internal comms (communicating messages to an internal audience so people within an organisation) or external comms (communicating messages to an external audience, so people outside an organisation).

There’s also the media and PR side to comms and marketing which is centred on sharing the companies successes and managing its reputation.

Then there are the all-rounders who work with both digital and traditional media for an internal and external audience. My personal preference is the latter, only because it expands your horizons and there’s never a dull day if you’re working on press releases, designing posters, writing and scheduling social media posts, writing news posts, updating websites, working on web design projects, creating analytics reports and newsletters.

What do you need to work in comms and marketing?

Traditionally, a degree in communications, marketing or journalism would be what employers want. But these days, with the rise of social media and self-taught influencers and short courses, I guess the most important thing to do is to get your foot in the door. I don’t have a degree but I have a diploma in journalism. My foot in the door was working as a team administrator for the comms team. After six months, I applied to be a comms advisor and was successful. If you have some experience doing some form of marketing, writing (particularly copywriting), managing content management systems (CMS) and social media experience, then you’re on the right track! If you don’t have experience, perhaps look for internships or offer to work for someone for free just to get yourself some experience. It would also help to do a short course just so you get an idea of what to expect on the job.

The soft skills that I personally think you need are:

  • the ability to connect with people
  • time management (because chances are you’ll be juggling more than one project and deadline)
  • the ability to multitask and prioritise
  • inquisitive with a passion for learning and progressing
  • work well under pressure
  • a creative flair and most importantly,
  • a sense of humour.

But of course, this is all dependent on the role and business requirements but I think if you have these basics, you’re on the right path.

Are there any challenges in comms and marketing?

Like with any role, there are challenges to comms and marketing. There’s always pressure in a role that has deadlines so I’d be lying if I said that there aren’t any pressures in comms and marketing. You also have to accept that you can’t please everyone with the content you create – there will always be feedback so you have to take it on the chin and learn from them. Again, this applies to almost any career out there, even for content creators! Managing expectations is an important skill to have – you need to make sure you’re clear on what your clients expect from you and that they’re clear on what you’re going to deliver. Then we come to communicating the bad stuff, like price increases or company shutdown and negative media – it’s always a challenge trying to manage a company’s reputation but it’s all part of the job!

So what about you? Where to from here?

I’ve always thought that comms and marketing would be the ‘be all, end all’ career for me. I’m not saying it’s not going to be but I may decide to venture down another path in the future. I think the beauty of working in comms and marketing is you end up with a great set of transferable skills. In my current role, I also do graphic design (self-taught) and I might decide to go down that route. Ultimately, I’d like to be self-employed but for now, I’m happy with where I am and just continuing to grow and learn new skills!

I hope this blog post has helped you gain an insight into the world of communications and marketing and if you’ve decided to go down this wonderful track, I hope the tips I’ve shared are somewhat helpful.

What field of work are you in? I’d love to know!

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