Communications professional

To succeed as a communications professional, you need resilience

How was your day? Was it “one of those days”? Did you suffer a setback? Did you have a tough meeting? Did you get some nasty feedback on something you spend too many hours working on?

How resilient are you feeling right now?

Every day in communications we have setbacks – difficult Executive, Ministers Offices demands, staffing issues, challenges with suppliers. There are few other professions where everyone can change what you do or challenge your professional advice, and it is considered the norm.

To succeed as a communications professional, you need to be resilient. Really really resilient.

Resilience written in wooden blocks

Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from setbacks or difficulties.

We have all experienced setbacks. We have all spent hours pouring over every word in a speech only to have it rewritten in the sweep of a red pen. A headline-grabbing media release redrafted by someone who doesn’t know Fairfax from News Corp. A clear and crisp piece of web content turned into legislative waffle.

But it wasn’t those times that called on my resilience reserves. It was the lack of gratitude after a huge project is delivered. The people who dismissed your ideas in a meeting because you are “just the comms person” or didn’t ask for your opinion at all. The lack of acknowledgement of the qualifications and years of experience that you bring to the table. They were the times that tested me, that made me question if this was the right profession for me. However, it was my ability to let go and get on with the job that demonstrated my resilience.

A lot of people have commented throughout my career that I am resilient. Many have asked how do I build and maintain my resilience. I hate to disappoint you, but I don’t have the answer, there is no secret formula. Everyone has to figure it out for themselves.

Here are a few things that work for me:

Sometimes good is good enough
Communications professionals are often perfectionists. We are often the last barrier before the big wide world and that makes us want to get it “right”. However, when we know a draft is going to a boss or a client that can’t help but edit your work maybe 80% will do (maybe less). A whole lot of you just shuddered when I said that, but it’s true. Put in a little less effort now and maintain your reserves until you have to polish that final version or battle the changes being suggested. Have a good solid draft, and a plan, but don’t stress over every word.

Surround yourself with resilient people
If you are surrounded by people who are constantly stressing out, having meltdowns, whining, it will wear on your resilience. You may not be able to control everyone you work with, but you can choose who your work buddies are and who you turn to when times are tough. Seek out and surround yourself with other resilient, positive people. People that will pep you up, not bring you down.

Work out what is non-negotiable
There were a few things that were non-negotiable for me at work no matter how hectic a day in the office was. They were my things that I did to remain centred. I always made coffee in the morning, even if people were already yelling out my name. It was my one moment I had to breathe before the day began. I always ate lunch, even if it was in a meeting or during a brainstorming session. I always made time for a cup of tea in the afternoon, often it was with one of my team talking through an issue or sharing a story, but the act of making and holding a cup of tea always calmed me. Given all of my things were food related I guess my advice is create your own menu of self-care habits that get you through long days.

Have something to look forward to
Finally, know when to take a break. I always had a holiday planned. It didn’t matter if it was 12-18 months away. I knew it was there and I could look forward to as an end goal (only 89 days, 4 hours, 23 minutes to go…). It gave me something else to focus on during a bad day. If it’s not a holiday then have something planned that you can look forward to, it adds a little sunshine when things are grey.

For me resilience comes down to this, you need to learn how to dust yourself off and get up again because in communications there will always be setbacks. There is no magic formula, it’s about understanding what pushes your buttons and what reinvigorates you. Then find a balance between the two.

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