While the value of the internal communications professional may have more gravitas these days, it seems the young videographer may have a better chance to land the comms role than you do. Do businesses actually know what they want, or is it all smoke and mirrors? Whichever way you look at it, the highly skilled pros out there, in a variety of professions, may find they’re being passed over in favour of those who can do a little bit of everything.
Shaun: In your experience, is it difficult to find a job as a comms professional these days? Let me answer my own question!
John: I’ll go home, then.
Shaun: Recently, I think you mentioned in one of our episodes, that you fell into the job.
John: Mmm, I did.
Shaun: Is that how most people find comms, or is it different these days?
John: I think I did say in that episode, when I was at school I would never have known it was a career or job. Maybe the listeners can tell us. Did they fall into it, or did they set out to go for this high-flying communications role? 🤩
Shaun: Write in, please! But I suppose for the benefit of this episode, let’s pretend we’re already in comms and we want another job in comms somewhere else. Is it hard to find that job?
John: One of the things I feel like I’ve noticed is that the jobs have less clarity than they had before. As we’ve discussed on all these podcasts, there’s lots of different types of communications roles, ranging from internal comms to media relations, to event management – all these different things that people do under that banner. I think one of the big changes is that people expect you to be a jack of all trades. Sometimes it feels like there’s less wanting a single professional who’s incredible at their job. You look at that job description and “God this is eight jobs!” That seems to be something out there right now.
Shaun: Yeah, it’s unfair.
John: You’re seeing that more, certainly in internal comms. I guess that’s where I am. They want you to be a videographer, they want you to be a podcaster, they want you to be a designer, they want you to have all sorts of different skills; they want you to be an incredible writer, manage events, which is fantastic …
Shaun: But they’re all separate professions.
John: They are all separate professions, so my one thing would be to say is you kind of have to know a little bit about how to do different things. Is it tough to get a job in comms? I think it is, because you could go to an interview and only do half of what they’re asking about for that job. They might not want you to do all those things anyway.
Shaun: That’s true, but it’s a shame if you were someone who went to the job interview and you’ve had 20 years’ experience – you may be 40-something and you think “Yeah, I’m pretty good and I’ll probably nail this job.” And you get there and you find that they give it to someone because they know how to use Final Cut Pro or Adobe Audition. They gave it to them based on the fact that they know how to use that bit of software, because they want the jack of all trades and miss out on that person who’s got 20 years’ experience of actually making your business better in terms of communications. That’s a shame.
John: Is there a shout-out to say, as a professional of anything now, you really do need to keep learning and keep understanding the different aspects. I would say communications is one of the professions most impacted by technology and the move to digital. If you think being a communicator is about being a good writer – “oh I’m a fantastic writer, I’m a storyteller” – which is super-important …
Shaun: But they’re only facets of a larger picture of you as a communicator 🧩
John: You need to know how other people want to take it. You might be fantastic at writing a newsletter or a company magazine, but maybe those things don’t exist anymore.
Shaun: Do you think we’re valued enough as internal communications professionals? Do you think we’re valued enough by the business to be able to differentiate ourselves from someone with only two years’ experience?
John: I think internal comms as a profession is certainly growing in stature in organisations. You are seeing more heads of internal comms, and directors of internal comms, sitting more at board level or working directly with senior managers. That is seen as a really important profession.
Shaun: What changed?
John: Good question. I think maybe lots of people were having issues.
Shaun: With engagement? With general communication?
John: I think a lot of things have changed. I guess we had maybe the professionalisation of internal comms, and a lot of people leading the way and showing the value of internal comms. And being able to manage it and show the impact it has on businesses. That’s probably what’s changed. It’s moved away from being something that’s seen as being an administrative role into something that really is helping a business to grow and impact the bottom line as well.
Shaun: Are more experienced people simply going to do the same things each time, or do you have to demonstrate your ability to learn; like you said with keeping in touch with new technologies? Is that more important these days?
John: I think it is. I think you’ve got to show that you’re interested in it even if you can’t do it. There are people who are super-professional at those things; we have great videographers and designers, and all those people have great professions. We should be using those people as well. Internal comms people should be focusing on strategy and the delivery of internal comms as opposed to the creation of content as well. But I think it’s important that you know how to use those, and the value of those things.
Shaun: And not pretend! 😏
John: Yeah! But we all pretend at some point, don’t we!
Shaun: Speak for yourself! 😨 So in terms of actually looking for the jobs then, and with you rightly saying that businesses see the value of internal communications now, has that made it so much more competitive out there?
John: Yeah, I think it is a very competitive market at the moment. I would say one of the things you want to do is be quite open about what you can’t do. By hiring me, you’re not getting a videographer, but you are getting someone who’s really good. It goes back to your point about someone who’s got 20 years’ experience, they need to articulate the way that will help an organisation. But be open that you can’t do things, because sometimes people don’t know what they’re looking for. That’s why you see those job adverts with a massive array of bullet points of things they want you to do. They don’t really know what they’re looking for. If you’ve got that experience, you need to show how that will help their business, as opposed to “I’m sorry, I can’t use Final Cut Pro.”
Shaun: Yeah. And don’t blag it. Those interviews where people blag that they know something, and then you come undone within the first few months. If you manage to make it through your … what do they call it?
John: The probation period.
Shaun: If you manage to make it through that, you’ve done really well. But it also means that whoever was looking after you for your probation period really didn’t test you on the things you said you knew. You’ll get found out. You will get found out 🧐
John: God that was spooky.
Shaun: I scared myself.