Preserving what I’ve learnt: 10 years in communications
This month marks 10 years since I joined the communications industry. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved but more than anything, I’m proud of what I’ve learnt. The life of a communications professional is naturally fast paced and a little “sink or swim” in nature, so I’m grateful that I’m still swimming!
The traditional gift for a 10 year anniversary is tin, representing the value in storing and preserving things. With that in mind, I’m taking some time out to reflect on the key learnings I’ve had over the past decade and sharing these as a way of cementing these lessons in my career.
1. A good network is worth its weight in gold
Whether you’re looking for new business, suppliers or even a new job, it’s amazing just how much a good network comes to your rescue. Even if you met people briefly in person then connected on LinkedIn, you now have a pool of people that you can contact or be contacted by at any point in the future. Many of us recognise that connecting with other professionals in your area of business or region will probably reap benefits in future. At the time you don’t necessarily know that, but you never know what’s round the corner. Without any direct intention and often completely unexpectedly, I have found jobs from old contacts, been approached for work from previous clients that I haven’t spoken to for years, and had experts to reach out to when I needed a favour – all based on a network built-up over the years.
2. Don’t be afraid to be bold
Being assertive in the workplace with colleagues, seniors or clients can be challenging. There’s been many times over the past 10 years where I’ve walked away from situations thinking ‘I wish I’d been confident enough to say what I really felt’. With experience and knowledge however, I’ve learnt that I shouldn’t be afraid of stating what I think is right, staying true to the expertise I’ve been hired for, or disagreeing with a colleague. It’s often in these situations – where you share with respect and decency – that new ideas are created, clients are impressed or ethics are held true to. This comes with time and experience, but I think boldness is much more highly valued in business now than it was 10 years ago.
3. Expect the unexpected
This is something I’ve come to learn in life in general, not just my career – and 2020 is living proof that as much as you might like, you can’t plan for every possible scenario! Life throws up challenges that you can’t control and you can’t ever predict. But the unknown doesn’t necessarily have to be scary; if you’d asked me five years ago whether I’d be freelancing as a communications professional, I wouldn’t have believed you and I probably would have been very fearful of the idea. Sometimes it’s better not to know everything ahead of time and the unknown has just as much chance of being a good surprise as a bad one – either way, every experience is a learning opportunity, and nothing is wasted. I’ve learnt to prepare for the worst or at least have a few back up plans, and more often than not, it works out much better than you expect in the end.
4. Life is more than work
Another very tough lesson. It’s easy to get caught up in your job but it can take over your mind, affecting your mental and physical health considerably. Even if you love your job, work life balance is important to ensure you stay sane, rested and healthy. It’s vital to find fulfilment in other parts of life, because not every part of your life will be perfect all the time. By having balance, you’re able to find solace elsewhere if another aspect is causing stress or bringing you down.
Over the next 10 years, I’m looking to build on what I’ve learnt and the career experiences I’ve had to focus on areas of business that I’m most skilled in and most passionate about.
What are the most important business lessons you’ve learnt over the years?