What is your career goal? Establish your own communications consultancy? Head up communications and marketing for a FTSE 100? Become the go-to specialist for the field you are really excited about and interested in?
Follow our guiding principles for success as you ascend the career ladder to achieve your professional aspirations.
Set your goals regularly
Identify what you want to achieve in your career, including a realistic time frame, and what skills, experience, mentorship and training will help you to get there. Ask advice from your peers as they may have some ideas you hadn’t considered. Research industry options such as the CIPR and PRCA and have a conversation with their teams. Also, discuss your career so far with a specialist search firm in the industry to gain bespoke advice. Perhaps you want to learn more about ESG, there is a great short course on offer at Cambridge University.
What formal training is there?
Don’t put career progression conversations on hold. What training options does your employer offer? Is there a structured plan in place? Set up a discussion with the relevant person and find out what options you have. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Your employer will only be impressed with you for wanting to develop and grow your skillset. They may be willing to pay for courses which will boost your expertise and in turn keep you happy and interested.
Develop a breadth of skills
Having a comprehensive understanding of the communications mix is going to be pivotal in helping you gain a leadership position in the PR and comms industry. While you are likely to have more experience in one area of comms compared to another, try to keep your hands on a variety of projects. Try to extend beyond your specialism – get to know a bit of everything. Gain exposure to media relations, internal comms, public affairs, digital marketing, social media and ESG. Always identify useful new trends that can be of value to your internal and external clients, and beyond that, make sure you bear in mind the big picture and help progress the organisational goals.
Nurture your network – internally and externally
It goes without saying that your external network is one of the most valuable assets you can bring to a company and your career. Make sure you have a great book of contacts externally, be it journalists, bankers, analysts, or peers. Always be thinking about strengthening your network.
Equally important and not to be overlooked is your relationship with internal stakeholders. Build real partnerships with colleagues from other functions; use your listening skills to understand what’s really going on in other parts of the business. When speaking with your peers in the other departments, think about what their main priorities are, and how can comms support that. Build relationships with people in your organisation who you will advocate for you and vice versa.
Demonstrate your worth
Successful comms people should be able to demonstrate their worth with data and measurement tools. Understanding data and how to use it is going to be a key skill to help you succeed – understanding the effectiveness of what you do and being able to prove it with numbers and data (if you can) or how you have helped change perception and the feedback you have received.
To get to the top, you need to have brave and honest conversations on the way up and that takes courage. You’ll also need someone with all the right experience and skills to look out for you and keep you in mind for potential opportunities. Knowing a great executive search consultant could be a good part of the equation. As always, we are always happy to give advice!
Don’t overlook how extraordinarily helpful having a mentor can be. Another perspective, someone to challenge you, encourage you to move out of your comfort zone and nudge you to keep learning and progressing. A mentor can come in all shapes and sizes and doesn’t necessarily need to be from the communications industry. Paying for a mentor’s time too is an option as you’re investing in yourself and your career.
One of the biggest challenges is often getting the time to review development and achievements, evaluating your training and how you’ve developed in a given time frame, and furthermore to set the goals for your future. But it’s important that you make the time for this on a regular basis in order to achieve the outcome you ultimately want in your career path.