I’ve answered dozens (Hundreds? Sometimes it feels like hundreds.) of questions from communications students or those wanting to get into the field about how, exactly, one goes about doing that. The short version: Skill. Timing. Luck.
All right, I know that’s not terribly helpful. Here’s a list of what I think really matters when you’re trying to get a job in corporate communications and why these things are important.
Make sure you ‘get it’
This, to me, is the most important thing. What is “getting it”? This is more than knowing the company’s slogan and being able to recite the latest annual report from memory. You have to know what the company is about. Not what they say they’re about, but what they’re actually about. What are the CEO’s unspoken priorities? What’s the culture?
What do they want the culture to be? What’s the one big thing you need to weave into all your waking thoughts about communications plans and materials? It might be safety, the bottom line, sales, being a top employer. Whatever it is, you need to be able to identify it and eat, sleep, and write it.
Offer to help out
As with any field, getting into communications can be tough if you don’t have experience. You might think you can write, and your mother might love your latest blog post, but that’s not going to get you hired.
If you want to get into communications in the company you work for, offer to lend a hand. Write a feature story for the intranet, proof the employee publication, draft communications materials for your department’s project.
In my experience, communications teams don’t often refuse help. Just be good at what you do, and don’t make them hold your hand all the way through.
Be tech savvy
Forget posters and bulletin boards. Internal communications is becoming increasingly technical. From intranets to mobile apps to QR codes, corporate comms is trying to keep up with the Joneses in the outside world. It’s great if you can write like a hot damn (and, as noted below, you should be able to) but that will get you only so far.
Know what’s going on
That’s another way of telling you to stalk other companies’ communications. There are lots of ways to do this, even if most of the work is internal only. Articles like those you’ll find on Ragan.com with examples of companies doing great work are a great start. I’ve also found Twitter to be a great tool for this—follow communicators, hashtags (#intranet and #internalcomms are two good ones) and conference tweets. You’ll find all kinds of nuggets to learn from.
Improve your writing
Saving the best (or hardest) for last. Even with an A+ in all of the above, you still need to be able to write. You just do, and I say “pshaw” to anyone who suggests otherwise. Corporate communications need to be clear, concise, and engaging, and it takes a good writer to get there.
So there you have it. All you have to do to get a job in corporate communications is be in the know. Easy, right? See you at the next conference!
Robin Farr is the communications manager for WestJet Airlines, one of Canada’s most admired companies and a recent inductee into the Corporate Culture Hall of Fame. She recently moved to Alberta from British Columbia and so far likes shovelling snow better than dodging raindrops. Robin can be reached at email@example.com.