June 12, 2020Published by: Alice Baxter

Starting my comms career in the midst of a pandemic

People say the first year of your career is about learning on the job and adapting to the world of work. Well, it’s fair to say the first six months of my career have been a bit different to what I’d expected!

I joined Battenhall towards the end of 2019, and while I did get to bond with my colleagues and learn a lot from them in the first few months, I’ve since had to deal with being separated physically from my colleagues and clients at a formative stage of my career. It’s something I hadn’t prepared for. I’d expected to be learning and absorbing information every day from them all in an office environment. 

Thankfully, any concerns I had have been unfounded. I’m fortunate that learning and collaboration is at the heart of everything we do at Battenhall. Opportunities include our agency's ‘20% time’ initiative, where a fifth of all employees’ working time is set aside for research and development, innovation in different ways of working, and many pro bono projects.

During these first few months, even with everyone working remotely, I’ve been encouraged to stay curious and develop daily. For those of you at a similar stage of your career, or graduates looking to get into social media or communications, I’ve highlighted my top tips for continuing the learning process in addition to your day-to-day activities.

Six things I’ve learnt in my first six months at Battenhall

1. Stay abreast of the media landscape

It’s important to remain engaged with the wider media landscape, whether the topics relate to your clients or not. Often the best inspiration or knowledge can come from topics entirely unrelated to your day-to-day work, so read as much and as widely as you can. Find a way that works well for you. The traditional PR ‘news scan’ first thing each morning is still relevant, but it’s increasingly possible to get the same information from different media. I enjoy listening to podcasts from a variety of sectors, so additional reading doesn’t feel like additional work. Some of my personal favourites include Beyond Today, TED Talks Daily, Ways to Change the World and Work Like a Woman

2. Look out for online panels and discussions you’re interested in

When starting a new job, it’s normal to want to switch off from work outside of working hours. But if you’re able to find ‘extracurricular’ events that you’re truly interested in, this won’t feel like a chore. One of my favourite sites for events is The Dots

3. Never stop asking questions

Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, all the time! You may fear this makes you look like you don’t know what you’re doing, but I quickly learnt this is the wrong mindset. A good manager will see that you are inquisitive and you challenge what you are told, in a constructive way. Yes, it’s trickier to ask questions when you can’t just lean over to ask someone, but instant chat on Hangouts, Slack or WhatsApp is a great substitute.  

4. Look for areas to upskill

A large part of this is pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Inevitably, continuous learning arises from continuously searching for areas where you could be doing better. This is in no way a negative thing. If you know ‘everything’, you’re in the wrong job! From my own perspective, I’ve been managing my own account and client using my 20% time. So far, I’ve helped audit and report insights back to a contact who owns a startup in the food and drinks sector; they understand the importance of social media, but are limited on time and weren't sure where to start. To complete the project I enlisted the help of our design team, as well as another executive with a strong knowledge of the sector. Managing this project is something I never thought I’d do in the first six months of my career, but Battenhall encourages all employees to lead, regardless of experience.

5. Absorb guidance from others

I’ve recently started training with a mentor through the Bloom mentoring programme, as suggested by our managing director, Steph Bennett. It’s important to occasionally take a step back and assess what you’re doing well, where you feel you can progress further, and what you need to do to achieve this progression. A mentor can encourage this thought process, and help with answers along the way. However, you don’t have to sign up to a mentoring programme. You could find someone in your company you get on well with and feel you can confide in, or a friend working in a similar industry.

6. Surround yourself with new perspectives and inspiration 

Our CEO, Drew Benvie, is on a mission to make social media a powerful force for good. I believe that one of the best parts of social media is the intimate, exclusive access you can get to some of your inspirations, as well as exposing yourself to new perspectives from leaders in their field. Some business leaders I seek inspiration from include Sharmadean Reid, Sarah Akwisombe, Michelle Kennedy, Whitney Wolfe, Lauren Mahon, and plenty more. I find these women inspiring, as they don’t shy away from their success; they’re open about how they got there, what they’re doing next, and offer their own advice for others who look up to them. I hope that in the future I can emulate these traits in my own work and career!

I feel very fortunate that I landed my first job at Battenhall, as the whole team really helps me with all of the above. Wherever you are working, I hope these six tips provide some food for thought. If you have any advice yourself, I’d love to hear from you. 

You can email me at alice.baxter@battenhall.com or follow me on Instagram @aalicebaxter

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