Blog post,  Communications professional,  Professional development

A year in communications

Stepping into Elm Communications at the start of 2023 as an intern, I was a nervous university student eager for industry experience. When you undertake an internship in your final year of university, teachers often tell you it is a great way to line up a job for post-graduation. So, naturally, that is what I set out to do. I never wanted to get too ahead of myself. I knew I could start the internship and not enjoy it or realise that I wanted a totally different career path, but I was hopeful.

Another thing they tell you is that reflection is key during internships. It’s true, especially when you reach the end and are trying to recall specific tasks or that crucial piece of information mentioned on a seemingly ordinary day. Recently, in an effort to clean up my laptop, I stumbled across some of the reflections I wrote throughout my internship, and it was great to look back and remember how I was feeling during that time. The best part was reading one of my reflections from around my fourth day and seeing the words, “I really hope I can get a job here.” (If you want to read more about my internship experience, you can find it here.)

Fast forward to the present, and I find myself wrapping up my first month as a full-time employee at Elm. The past year has brought a lot of change that has been both challenging and rewarding.

Throughout my schooling, I was always a diligent student. I don’t say that to brag but rather highlight that transitioning into full-time work has very much felt like uncharted territory. I have always known how to be good at school or university, but the nuances of excelling at this new role haven’t felt as straightforward. I have had to learn to accept that I physically can’t produce the same quality of work as my amazing team members with 20+ years of experience, and so I shouldn’t set that expectation for myself. I quickly realised that I needed to let go of that pressure and embrace the learning curve that comes with being fresh out of university. I needed to focus not on perfection, but on growth.

I think that regardless of your experience, there’s always something to learn, or someone to learn from. Here are some key practices I’ve adopted to ensure I’m actively absorbing knowledge and not simply going through the motions:

  • Active listening: Be the quiet sponge in the room, soaking up insights from team discussions, project brainstorming and problem-solving sessions. Observe, listen and learn from the diverse perspectives and experiences around you (and for those of us with less-than-perfect memories, taking lots of notes is a lifesaver!)
  • Research: Explore industry trends, emerging technologies, best practices and grow your knowledge through research articles, reports and other resources. Some people think it might be the “boring job”, but it is so crucial to learning. Recently I’ve found the IABC Circle of Fellows podcast to be a great resource for staying up to date with industry trends and best practices across the world.
  • Do the doing: Have a go and grab any practical opportunities with an open mind. Don’t feel like you have to wait to be allocated tasks either; ask to be involved in projects or offer assistance within your capability.  Trying is the only way to get better.
  • Seek feedback: Don’t fear constructive criticism. Seek out feedback from colleagues or supervisors to identify areas for improvement. Personally, I try to make a point to request feedback after I have completed a piece of work, particularly if changes have been made.
  • Ask questions: If you don’t ask, you won’t know. Being curious is one of the best qualities you can have, especially in communications.
  • Professional development: Go beyond the day-to-day office activities. Actively seek opportunities to learn more about the industry through podcasts, books, seminars, workshops and networking opportunities.

I feel so fortunate to work alongside three exceptional women who not only generously share so much of their knowledge but also exemplify a commitment to continuous learning, inspiring me to do the same.  

As we all know, the communications industry is a dynamic landscape. Entering it is exciting, and I can’t help but wonder what change will come in the years ahead. However, it does underscore the importance for professionals to adopt a mindset of continuous learning. Only then can we stay relevant, evolve with the industry and deliver true value to our clients.

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