Today I graduated with a Master of Strategic Communications. It seemed like an appropriate time to share my story about why I went back to uni.
A lot of people have asked me why?!? Why did I want to work full-time and study? Spend my weekends writing assignments and my nights doing research rather than…well, anything else. I know a lot of people are starting to think about what’s next in their professional development and are contemplating this path as well. So, I thought I would share my thought process, and maybe it will help some of you.
It all started when I had my ‘mid-career’ crisis. Many of you would have been through this too. Do I want to stay in communications? Is it time to try something else? The wear and tear of Minister’s Offices’, Executive editors and the internal politics was all getting too much. I had been told many times before, if I was going to move up in the public service I needed to move on from communications, broaden my skill set, maybe get an MBA.
I was at a turning point and was given the opportunity to apply for a Senior Executive role, encouraged (maybe even pushed) into applying for it. I went through the whole process. One day my boss pulled me into his office and told me it was down to me and one other person. This is the bit that I always remember, he asked me if I really wanted the job because it just didn’t seem like my heart was in it. There and then I told him no. I just wanted to do communications. I didn’t care about the promotion, I just want to do the thing I loved. I didn’t even know I felt like that until I was pushed to give it up. And so, I looked ahead, if this was going to be my career what did I need to do to be great at it.
A little of my backstory, I graduated university in 2002. I had a desktop computer in my dorm room, it wasn’t connected to the internet. We had one class a week where we went to the computer lab. I think the university had a website, I didn’t use it. If you missed a lecture you went and listened to tapes in the library (or you just didn’t). I had a Nokia 3310 on which I sometimes made phone calls but mostly played snake. When I graduated I knew how to write and fax a press release. I understood that there was a network of metro and regional journalists you targeted to get your messages out. I was a typical PR graduate of the early 2000s.
Fast forward and I am now working in a world, where everyone is a content creator and I needed to understand how to fit my messages into 240 characters and which bloggers are the most influential to my organisation. How to influence SEO. The world of communications has radically changed in the past twenty years (I just felt really old writing that).
I decided that if I was going to work in a digital communications world, then my theory would have to catch up with my reality. I didn’t understand how to strategically use social media and other digital channels in the same way that I understood traditional media. I know a lot of comms people of my generation feel the same, we know we need to use it but basically it’s a mystery! Give us a media release or a factsheet any day.
Where did I start?
I started a Graduate Certificate in Social Media and Public Engagement in 2016, to learn how to implement social media strategically rather than randomly. What I found was that I loved learning. I found the readings interesting, I liked being challenged to think differently and thinking about communications not in the context of my day-to-day work. I enjoyed it so much that I went straight on to do my Master in Strategic Communication. This was a whole new ball game, much more academic and less practical but it challenged me in new ways and I got more out of it than I ever thought I would.
But it was hard, and you have to be prepared to give up a lot as it can consume your life (if you want to do well). I was extremely lucky to have a very understanding boss who gave me time off each week to focus on studying and a chunk of time off to write my dissertation. I also had a great team who didn’t call me every five minutes when I wasn’t in the office. If I didn’t have this type of environment I think it would have been a lot harder.
If anyone was to ask do I regret giving up three years of my life, I don’t. It gave me a great sense of satisfaction and pride. It also made me much more confident in my abilities as a communicator. Now that it’s over I kind of miss it and find myself at a bit of a loss what to do on a Sunday afternoon. Not enough to go back again!
If you want to know more or want to ask questions to help you make your decision, please feel free to private message or email me.