How to enjoy a long, successful career in communications

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.