A Career in Communications: What really matters?
Updated: Dec 29, 2021
A career in communications is perhaps one of the most misunderstood fields. When I started my professional journey some six or seven years ago as a "Content Writer", I thought it was about writing my heart out on any given subject. Simply like I have been used to writing until then.
But was it about that? Absolutely, not. My first write-up at my very first job "sucked" real bad - it was hailed as boring and essay-like, as I poured my heart into the 2000 word article, decorating it with flowery words wherever possible. And then it took a day to revise it as per the expectations of the client with the right keywords stuffed at the right intervals at the right frequency.
My heart broke and it still hurts but that was perhaps the first big learning. Personal esoteric content pieces are very different from professional writing. Online searchability makes it all the more important to weigh and measure the content appropriately before it gets published.
Why? Because someone is "looking for the content". And, why would someone want to read your article? Is it engaging and readable? Or is it blurting out too much complexity with heavy vocabulary and long sentences?
With a heavy heart, I revised the article but it was every bit worth it. And then started a series of SEO-rich articles with words and sentences measured just the way it was needed. Nothing fancy.
Why Long Sentences Hurt
Just think about this. You are looking for articles online that help you understand how you can diversify your investments. The important aspect is "help you understand". And the first article that you land upon is probably a 1500-2000 word article, with long sentences, complex vocabulary, and difficult to pronounce words. What would you do? If you have too much time at hand and really want to give your understanding of the English Language a test run, you would read it. But there's a high probability that you would skip it and turn to something lighter, crisper, and simpler.
Now, think about the person who has penned down that article. He or she must have written it with a high dose of motivation. Alas, nobody is going to read it. What a waste of time and effort! Why would you want to be in that place?
As long as it is possible, keep it short. This is was a huge learning. With such a short attention span, what best we as writers could do to engage the readers? That's where the key was to good content writing - towards a good career in communications.
Listening well? Or, too much blah blah!
Most of us, while starting out in our careers, assume that we already know too much. We imagine that we would shake the world with our great unmatched talent if given the right opportunity. Consequently, too much talking, less listening, and even lesser learning.
I realized early on that I KNEW NOTHING AND STILL BELIEVE THE SAME. This feeling not only helped me stay grounded and humbled but also made me a good listener. It made me someone who would spend an ample amount of time on "understanding".
As I said earlier, communications is perhaps one of the most misunderstood fields. It is not just about communicating well but also "listening way too well". Else, how are you going to pass on that knowledge? How are you going to guide someone who wishes to pursue a career in communications?
Do you read?
This is a very important question.
If you believe you can master the art of communication which includes writing, without any reading, you might want to rethink this.
What are great authors talking about? What does a book tell you about its style, language, format? How are the sentences constructed? What all does it take to build a narrative? How is a novel different from prose, how is an essay different from poetry? How can you work better on your writing skills? How can you keep it crisp, clean, yet creative and engaging? There are endless cues you would get while developing a sound reading habit, that will help you in your journey. You would end up creating your own unique style while picking pearls of wisdom from here and there.
I listened and I continue to listen, I read and continue to read, keeping not just my ears and eyes open but my mind and heart as well. There are going to be disagreements in the way. You need to open up to a new perspective, an alternative world view, whether you like it or not. Everything that you love is not going to be presented or published. It has to be in the best interest of your audience, your readers.
Are you building a connection?
Literature, movies, theater, sitcoms, - they have mirrored life for us since time immemorial. We laugh, we cry, we walk along with the characters. Somewhere, connecting with them, finding the story relatable. Somewhere, finding answers to deep-rooted questions or questioning what is before us.
The audience is often looking forward to that feeling - "what's happening with me right now has happened with someone else too. Here's what the other person did to solve the challenge. Maybe, I could try it."
Be it a proposal, a presentation, an article, or a speech - make the person feel at home. Tell your audience you are right there for them and not the other way round. You already have an audience, make them stay for a while. Allow them to laugh and cry with you, let the story strike some chords.
Less about technicalities, more about people
Well, you can choose to differ with me here. You can argue, without a degree in Journalism, English Literature, or Mass Communications, it is practically impossible to pursue a career in communications. I too have a degree in English Literature. But some of the best writers and copywriters in my network are Engineers!
A job's eligibility criteria might demand a degree and I am with you on that. But there are many companies that ask for your work samples. Something you've written in the past, a piece that got published, or an editorial you wrote for the college journal. Or, write something afresh, from the scratch. If they give an assignment, you have a point to start from. This is where you get to make the difference even though you do not fulfill the background criteria. Moreover, there are so many online courses today that can help you level up your skills.
Your background in communications is only as good as your passion for the field. Blend it with practice and you would know how to lead the way!
Do you love the subject? Do you have an interest in writing, in talking to people, in understanding their challenges, their story?
Think about it and you will know if you want to build a career in communications. Every career has its own journey, with its own ups and downs. Communication is no different.
This article is not a "TO DO" list rather, learning spread across six years of experience in the field. I have only tried to sum up a few of the aspects that made a million-dollar difference for me. I hope they help you get an insight into a career in communications. I would love to hear about your own learnings and get some wisdom straight into the comments section!
(This piece is contributed by Garima Gayatri. She currently works as a Senior Communications Manager with a US-based cloud telephony solutions provider.)