Five key traits for working in comms

This is an article by Hannah Tulloch.
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Hannah Tulloch

Communications is an industry that’s well-suited to graduates.

I say that as someone who started both my career in PR and comms, and my career at TopLine, as a graduate.

It’s fast paced, it’s challenging, but it also offers you the opportunity to progress fast and learn a lot. And I mean a lot.

Energy, initiative and the ability to get on with people are essential as is the case in most jobs, but over time, we’ve identified some key traits and qualities we look for when bringing in graduates to the business.

If you’ve just finished your degree and intend to kick-start your career in comms, here’s what you should show your potential employer.

1) Emotional intelligence. Graduate hires at PR and comms agencies tend to work in client-facing roles, and that means, essentially, that they need to face clients. Sometimes these clients are nice and helpful and trust an able account executive to do their job. Sometimes they’re not and they don’t.

Working in comms, you’ll have to deal with both kinds of client, and possessing a little emotional intelligence will really help here. Understanding their positions and their personality will make it much easier to deal with them and deliver for them. So when we ask a new hire about a time when they successfully managed a conflict, we’re looking for signs that they can easily familiarise themselves with other people’s perspectives.

The same applies to colleagues – we are a small team and we want people who get on with colleagues and foster a positive working environment so you’ll need to be a team player.

2) Evidence of hard work and commitment. A fancypants degree from a fancypants university may help you get your foot in the door, but it won’t ever be enough to get you the job. When we read a CV, we are looking for evidence of hard work and commitment.

Did you work in a supermarket or in catering, did you work there for long, and did you progress when you were there? Did you hold down the same summer job throughout university?

If a graduate can demonstrate they they’ve earned their past employer’s trust and stuck at it, we’re far more inclined to hire them.

3) Eagerness to learn. Nobody expects graduates to come out of university knowing everything, and in fact, those who believe they do usually find themselves wanting. But when you work for a B2B agency, you’ll be grappling with new concepts, new technology, and new business models – things you weren’t taught about, and can’t bluff your way through.

You also need to get to grips with the various comms disciplines: building a landing page, optimising it for SEO, running social streams, picking up the phone and convincing your client that your idea is what they really wanted all along, and then pitching the story to time poor journalists. You’re inevitably going to make mistakes and that doesn’t matter as long as you learn from them.

Be willing to learn and improve and you’ll go far.

4) Excellent communication skills. Well, duh. This is partially something conveyed during the interview by body language, by posture, by clarity of thought and expression, but it’s partially a matter of philosophy. Think about how you define good communication: what does it mean to you? Why does it matter? How do you want to be spoken to, and how would you like people to speak to you?

You may well be asked this in the interview, but it’s worth thinking about anyway – it may highlight deficiencies in the way you communicate that you’d like to correct, or strengths that you ought to emphasise.

5) Must love dogs. Okay so this one is TopLine specific. We have an office pup. She’s very friendly and helps keep the team happy and productive!

This is by no means a hard and fast list – different employers will be looking for different skill sets – but if you like a challenge and you’re ambitious, then a career in PR and comms could be exactly what you’re looking for. Have a think about how you can demonstrate the above qualities when you’re prepping for those interviews.

Keep an eye on our recruitment page if you are interested in joining the TopLine team!

Hannah Tulloch is comms director at TopLine Comms

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