By Ellie Philpotts, Account Executive
With more workplace options than you can shake a stick at, there seems to be an unwritten rule that as each year passes, job specs should be getting increasingly inventive. Australian author Jo Stewart sums this up in her book ‘I Can Get Paid for That?’, which explores 99 outside-the-box occupations, from Champagne Consultant to NASA’s Chief Sniffer. (And clearly Jo practices what she preaches, having found a way to combine all of these in her own job…)
Were Champagne Consultants and NASA’s Chief Sniffers on your parents’ radar when they made those tentative first steps onto the career ladder? Probably not.
But an industry can be creative and ever-reinventing without being new altogether. It’s no exaggeration to say communications has been around for quite some time – and yet its collective climate is always finding new ways to impact the public consciousness.
This obviously spells good things for the sector, and for the individual once they’re in it. If you rest, you rust! However, on the flip side, the impressive speed at which communications is evolving means it can seem tricky to know where to start.
I’m in the first year of my career, so, looking ahead, have a lot to learn. But, if you’re also a recent graduate or job-hunting, uni or not, and comms keeps jumping out, check out what I’ve picked up on so far for tips on what to bear in mind when applying.
- Refine your focus.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, comms has a lot to it. Traditional aspects centred around getting your brand coverage into print, while the more recent seismic shift swept up social and digital media, consumer engagement and more inclusive ways of reaching the community. There are ample opportunities for creative output that weren’t on the scene earlier this decade, and the globalisation of technology unites people, ideas and results without anyone travelling beyond their desk. At M&F Health, we regularly liaise with clients based internationally and case-studies who prove how quickly modern media brings campaigns to life. So amid this, it’s sensible to find which area you’re drawn towards. Sector-wide, most businesses struggle to thrive without implementing efficient comms strategies, so whether fashion, global development, or anything in-between is where your interests lie, you’ll probably find a way to incorporate it with comms. Of course, at M&F Health, we’d say you should go for health comms!
However, all’s not lost if you’re a little indecisive, which leads me onto…
- Decide if you want to work in an agency or in-house.
Comms isn’t solely a specific department within brands – integrated agencies have multiple clients on the go. Agencies are on the rise, and while some stick with their speciality (like us with health and wellbeing) others might smoothly combine everything from restaurants to beauty. Needless to say, topics like health still cover quite the distance. For example, at M&F Health we work on heart failure, childhood nutrition, cancer, spondyloarthritis, sexual health and pharmaceuticals, among others. I love the variety and versatility of this – although, as with any type of comms, organisation is key for juggling clients’ distinct styles and objectives.
- Remember the reality.
Comms, especially PR and Marketing, can harbour a glamorous reputation. Particularly relevant for lifestyle and travel, images may be conjured up of mingling at parties with celebrity guests, champagne flowing and city lights twinkling. Events do make appearances on the calendar, but daily routine is more like long, packed days, coffee cups multiplying in a fort surrounding a computer screen that’s playing host to 300 emails, spreadsheets and webpages. Putting in the effort to meet the client’s goals means seeing through every detail. With tasks lasting anything from a few minutes to years ongoing, don’t forget the process it’ll take to reap the reward.
- Consider your personality.
When putting pen to the paper of your cover letter, maybe you’re likelier to focus on how your education and employment could benefit the company. But before this, assess your traits and how they’d function within comms. With new events, projects and hopefully pitch wins making their way onto the scene, comms moves even faster than the speed at which you type. So, be organised, fairly distribute your attention and differentiate between what needs prioritising.
To work in communications, you need to be an effective communicator. Your message won’t get off the ground without the right words or visuals, but while an initial idea might be independent, its jump to reality requires a team. Remember that collaborating means being adaptable, personable and a listener who knows the steps to take what’s being discussed beyond the meeting room. At M&F Health, any trivial differences in points of view are dropped in favour of focusing on our common goal – the bigger picture, of ultimately helping others, whether giving those recently diagnosed a platform to share their symptoms, or informing patients about new drugs’ licensing. Having the confidence to bounce your ideas between the group is encouraged – just don’t give egos a starring role, and ensure you really understand what the client wants. Never change who you are! But just think about the traits it takes to thrive in this setting.
- Get as much experience as possible.
As well as the obvious of making your CV a template to points worth mentioning, proactivity makes a difference all-round. Even in your first proper role, you’ll have transferable skills like time-management and holding your concentration. By dipping your toe into the industry, perhaps through freelancing or interning, you’ll grasp an impressive amount of tricks of the trade, contacts and snippets of knowledge about how the systems run. Additionally, this lets you suss out where your strengths are and how you envision yourself in the future – useful when weighing up where to work for real. M&F Health is my first full-time position, but at uni I contributed to topics from editing student media to being interviewed on TV and radio. Despite gaining something from each, combined they taught me I was most enthusiastic about healthcare, and working on this part-time, as a charity Ambassador and society Media Coordinator, helped too.
- Be committed to the cause.
Really believing your core message – and having a specific reason for this – may transform your results. Having cancer made me passionate about oncology projects like Make Blood Cancer Visible, as I first-hand realise the impact of public awareness. That’s how I met M&F Health, when I was the campaign’s case-study last year – and I can touch on this now in an employee capacity. Having an individual incentive isn’t only applicable in healthcare – maybe travels lead you to a charity, or a certain publication changed your way of thinking, so you always aimed to write for it yourself. But, keep the balance between professional and personal.
- Learn as you go!
Experiences like uni bring great insights to a first full-time role, but there’s a limit. Learning is a major component of comms – I started as Trainee Account Executive in October, then became an AE by January. That doesn’t erase the ‘trainee’ title, though. Learning isn’t reserved for newbies, and the spectrum of skill-sets enveloped within an integrated agency open your eyes to fresh ways of approaching tasks. I love the creative side, like blogging, whether copywriting for clients or exploring other topics on our website; designing social media schedules; and putting newsletters together. But, having maybe written myself off (pun intended) as someone who, for the sake of everyone involved, should always steer clear of numbers, I’m surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed compiling reports, graphs and all. Don’t get me wrong – I can’t see myself swapping to finance or analysis – but not being daunted by preconceptions of your abilities (maths lessons have a lot to answer for…) pays off!
As a relative newcomer to the world of work, I’m no expert, but I’m learning a lot. I’d highly recommend this area – healthcare will always bear great significance to the public and decision-makers, while comms isn’t going anywhere. And if you’re feeling inspired, why not send your CV to us at M&F Health…