How to enjoy a long, successful career in communications

March 17, 2018

When Helen Reynolds asked for careers advice on LinkedIn recently, the response was fascinating.

It prompted me to consider what characteristics and tactics make for a long and successful career in communications.
Personal characteristics
  • Listen (really listen): The former US President Calvin Coolidge once said: “No one never listened himself out of a job.” To hone your listening skills, Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan is a great starting point.

  • Be curious: In a fast-moving world, pragmatic curiosity ensures you’re not left behind. Next on my reading list is A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer, who writes: “Curiosity has never let me down. I am never sorry I asked the next question. On the contrary, curiosity has swung wide many doors of opportunity for me.”

  • Speak plainly and honestly: Practise what you preach by communicating with integrity, clarity and respect. Smart people make the complex simple. Ditch the jargon.

  • Invest in yourself: Join professional bodies, take courses, attend events, find a mentor, read books, subscribe to blogs… This will help you embrace new ideas and drive your creativity. Take a look at the work of Tim Ferriss. He writes books and hosts a podcast that distils the tactics, routines and habits of the world’s high achievers.

  • Pick the right boss: This is so important, I’d suggest choosing a boss over an organisation. A good manager will direct, inspire and guide you.

  • Identify and follow your passion: Loving what you do makes even the toughest days worthwhile.

  • Don’t be a lone wolf: We live in a sharing economy. Cultivate your network and build a great team. I recommend reading Multiplers by Liz Wiseman. It explains how to make those around you smarter.

  • Know your organisation: This means understanding the drivers of performance; the forces shaping your marketplace and sector; what success looks like now and in the future; plus the obstacles to success, both internal and external.

  • Spend time with your audience: You can’t connect with an audience you don’t know. Walk in your audiences’ shoes, ask them questions and take a collaborative approach to creating channels and content.

  • Have an opinion but keep an open mind: What are you bringing to the party – an observation, some useful insight or a new idea? It is not necessary to have all the answers, but the best communicators offer an analysis of the issue, have a compelling point of view yet remain open to the ideas of others. 

  • You regret what you didn’t do, not what you did: Be on the lookout for opportunities to experience something new – a project, secondment, or additional responsibly. This will ensure you don’t have a 40-year career that is essentially one year repeated 40 times.

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© 2017 by Katie Macaulay