We have the pleasure of welcoming guest blogger Chelsea Ferguson, who is here to talk about a little talked about career path: Internal communications! What is it, how did Chelsea end up working there, and what advice does she have for students interested in a career in comms?
Being in my twenties, it’s rare that I come across peers who know what I mean when I say I work in Internal Communications (IC). I’ve been asked “Oh… you do telesales?” or after explaining further, “Is that like HR?” (Closer). And “Ah! So you’re the person who sends newsletters?” While true at surface level, there is much more depth to ‘sending newsletters’, among other IC tactics, than meets the eye.
It’s even rarer that I come across peers in the same profession, which can be put down to a lack of awareness of IC as a career option. Meaning that people often move into it later in their careers once they’ve had exposure in a corporate environment, whether through PR, HR, Marketing, or PA and administration work. When you’re nearing the end of your high school education and making the daunting decision of what to do next, there aren’t exactly posters in the career advisor’s room that shout, “Become an Internal Communications Practitioner!”
Value of Internal Comms to businesses
In my eyes, the fact that students don’t know more about this field is a betrayal not only to businesses who need fresh thinking and would benefit from a digital native’s understanding of the way that communication is evolving in ‘real life’ and reflection of this within, for the workforce of the future. But also, to all young people who are creative, strategic thinkers, problem solvers, writers, and care about people. These are just a few of the transferrable traits, which allow you to pursue a rewarding career in internal communications.
For further information about careers in Internal Comms, check out this handy student resource recommended by Chelsea!
My Journey to IC
I grew up in New Zealand and one day in my year 13 English class, a leaflet for Massey University’s Bachelor of Communication course landed on my desk. I had no idea what communications studies meant in practicality, but the keyword ‘marketing’ stood out. I liked the idea of working in a creative area and English was my strongest subject at school, so I figured I’d give it a shot.
The course taught aspects of IC through a range of communication papers. However, I think most of the students who were fresh out of high school (myself included) were there for the more ‘sparkly’ jobs in marketing, public relations, journalism or media.
Later in my studies, another fortuitous leaflet appeared on my desk. This one described an internship opportunity with a communications consultancy. I jumped at the opportunity to add some work experience to my resume and reached out to the contact.
I interned over the summer and four months later, accepted a job offer with the consultancy as a Communications Coordinator. It was a small consultancy so I worked closely with the director, who was like a mentor to me, took me to lots of client meetings and importantly, listened to my ideas. Our clients were large matrix organisations with complex issues, from big structural transformations to relocating offices, or trying to repair a culture of blame and bullying… It was our task to come up with innovative solutions, centred on communicating with their people.
Early career lessons from the industry
During my first experiences in Internal Comms, I gained an insight into the inner workings of these organisations and the people and politics involved. I learnt that every decision affects someone and change impacts people on many different levels. It also taught me that employee engagement directly correlates with the success of business objectives and that people are the driving force behind organisations because they’re the ones who need to take action. If people are not on board, the ship will sink, failing to meet objectives, and losing valuable talent and money in the process.
After almost three years in this role, London started calling and I answered. Eager to explore a world wider than my beautiful homeland, I set off. Every organisation can benefit from IC (whether they recognise it or not), so it’s a career that can take you almost anywhere in a big city.
Holding the reins and having the creative freedom
I landed an Internal Communications role for a global company, based in London. The company hadn’t previously had a dedicated IC person, so I had the exciting opportunity of creating a new framework for the way it communicated with employees, with the aim of engaging, informing and motivating them. I had creative freedom (another big plus of IC) and worked on projects that shaped the employee experience and united people toward a common vision, which I found meaning in. I became an advocate for people and was driven to understand humans and their differences more, in order to pre-empt how certain messages would make them feel and respond.
The industry today
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought to light the value of comms more than ever, proving the importance of timely information, effective messaging, and empathetic leadership. So, now’s a great time to get into the profession.
Despite studying Communications, it still felt by chance that I landed in IC before it became my choice. If I had to go back, I would choose it one hundred times over and recommend it as a career choice to any young person whose traits align with those mentioned.
Interested in exploring a career in Internal Comms? Check out the website of Institute of Internal Comms for further learning. Also, do head on over to our KEATS Sector Guides for further resources to industry websites and where to find information about the exciting field of comms.