Part 1: Broke Girls Guide to Professional Development in Communications

If you are not frightened, you are not original.
— Jimmy Iovine

Saturday mornings are my favourite time of the week. Regardless of whether I am doing a spin class, grabbing brunch with a friend or having a lie in after one too many glasses of Merlot the night before in my very Olivia Pope wine glass.

This one, however, has been the first one of the year that I am able to settle into myself because I have been consumed by the process of finding and starting a new job. Life inevitably keeps ticking over even if you have interviews to attend and presentations to nail the day job still needs to be done and to the highest standard.

So this morning I said bye to my brother who has been over from San Francisco and decided to finally watch the Netflix docuseries The Defiant Ones and Fyre - The greatest party that never happened, which I highly recommend.

But this week during #Powerandinfluence chat The Challenges of Public Sector Communications with Darren Caveney I promised that I would pen a broke comms girls guide to professional development and give an insight into what has helped me, so while I recover from the rugby let me start putting something together. If you take one thing away from this blog post, it is to have an idea of where you want to go with your career and take responsibility for making that happen. This is the first part, which is written for anyone who has zero budget to do anything.

  • Have a plan: In the last few years I have begun to think much more critically, and one of the things that has helped me do this is the blueprint I designed for myself of what success looks like for me. In my case, it’s been an evolving piece of work, but I have a notebook that I regularly visit and brain dump my vision onto. I then map out how I am going to get there craving out a roadmap. That way my energy is channelled in the right direction and focussed.

  • What problem are you trying to solve: Before you begin to think about what training and development you want to go on, start by mapping out what problem you are trying to solve for yourself and the organisation that you work for. There are many courses or books that I could pick, but I always ask how does this ultimately fit in strategically. For example, if you work in public sector communications, the biggest challenge in the sector is finding ways of making the communications function commercially viable and gaining real influence in the organisation, for someone with a digital role it is to prove the ROI of your online activities. One of the best pieces of advice I received going into my new position was, "understand why you have been hired, not what they want you to do but what problem are you there to solve from a strategic point of view".

  • Stay curious: There is an abundance of resources to read, listen and watch online and I will list as many free ones as I can. But a lot of it comes down to mindset and attitude. In a recent podcast Russell Grossman, Director of Communications at ORR summed it up quite well. The future directors and heads of communications will need to have a 360 view of everything. Just being interested in one aspect of the industry will keep you boxed in. Read reports to understand insights, business books to develop a strategic view, listen to podcasts that give you perspectives of what other sectors, businesses and practitioners are doing, dive into the data and understand the trends. I often find some great inspiration in reading award submissions, case studies by creative agencies and watching documentaries about the industry.

  • Ask for help and have questions: Social media has broken down a barrier that previously would have made it impossible to access certain C-Suite level individuals. At our fingertips, we now have some of the most influential people in the industry during a Twitter Chat or are able to send them a message via Linkedin without having to spend hours trying to figure out their company email which is probably bursting at the seams, so take advantage of this access. Having done all of the above you will know and understand much better what questions you are looking to get answers to. Never be ashamed or afraid to ask for help. While it may seem like there are people who know all there is to know about everything, we are all still learning with a child-like curiosity.

  • Build your tribe: Mentors are great, and I would suggest having them. But build a network of people around you who have your back, are able to be brutally honest with you, and bring something different. I have people who keep me grounded and check me, the ones who encourage me when I am in a dark place, the ones who push me outside of my comfort zone, the ones who open me up to new experiences and the ones who guide me on what is next. The community I have chosen to build around myself is based on respect, care, loyalty, honesty and a vested interest in each other. Having a Rolodex of names will only take you so far as opposed to authentic friendships.

    A few tips to getting the most out of mentoring sessions:

  • Come with a clear agenda. What do I need to think about / do/ learn in the next 3 – 9 months so that I see the change in the next year? What projects do I need to take on that will take me to the next level? What skills do I need to start developing, professional and personal?

  • Bring something to the table and show that you have made progress. There is probably nothing more frustrating than giving someone the same advice, steps and direction over and over again for them to ignore it but time and time again come back hoping you will have different advice.

  • Pave it forward and be of service.



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