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Podcast: How to find an Internal Comms job

Are you looking for a job as an internal communicator?

Perhaps you’re looking to move into the profession, or would like to find a new role.

This episode will help you think it through.

Candid Comms podcast with Rachel Miller

It covers:

  • How to apply for internal communication roles
  • How to prepare for an interview
  • Ways to learn about organisations
  • The best ways to sell yourself
  • Questions to consider asking in interviews.

Thank you to my Producer, Debbie West of Seren Creative.

What is the podcast?

The Candid Comms podcast launched in January 2021. It is a weekly show designed to connect internal communication professionals to the latest advice and guidance, to help you thrive in your role.

You can find the Candid Comms podcast on your favourite player including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and Podbean.


Resources mentioned in the show

Transcript of this week’s episode

You’re listening to the Candid Comms podcast with Rachel Miller. Join me every week for practical advice and inspirational ideas to help you focus on all things, internal communication related.

Hello and welcome to the show. In this week’s episode, we are going to be focusing on getting a job within the wonderful world of internal communication. This episode is for you if you are thinking about becoming an internal communicator, loving your thinking, or if you’re already working in the field, but you want to move into a different position, or perhaps you’re mentoring somebody who is thinking about progressing within their career, either moving into the world of internal comms or moving up from their current position.

As ever, you will leave with one thing to know, one thing to do, and one thing to think about. Are you ready? Let’s get started.

How do you find a job in the world of internal communication?

That’s what listeners of the Candid Comms podcast have been asking me. Thank you to everybody who got in touch after season one and shared their queries with me. As a result of your feedback, I’m recording this episode today to help you.

Some of the questions that I’ve been sent include, how can you apply for internal communication roles? How do you prepare for an interview? What are the best ways to sell yourself? And what are the good questions that we need to consider? So comms friends, that’s what we’re going to be focusing on today. And I will be answering all of those questions within the body of this episode.

So, what do we need to know? Imagine if you are looking for internal communication job right now, I encourage you to think about the type of organisation that you want to work for. But broader than that, I want you to think about the types of things that you enjoy doing, because there is inconsistency within the world of internal communication when it comes to being an internal communication practitioner. For example, in some organisations, they might have huge teams and therefore every individual within the team could either be a generalist or a specialist.

So, a generalist is somebody who can try their hand or turn their hand to most things. So, maybe they could write content for the internet. They might take photographs. They might advise leaders on their communication style. When you have a specialist, that someone who’s gone into a very particular subject. So maybe change communication, or employee engagement, or perhaps the technical side of running an internet, perhaps they’re an internet manager.

Within most organisations, you’ll have a mix of generalists and specialists. Some organisations have deliberately trained all of their wider communication function, both internal and external to be able to cover each other. So some organisations train you within the environment to be an internal and external communication specialist. Now, that’s not super common. What I find more often than not is you have subject matter experts.

So, people who are specialists in the world of internal communication and specialists in the world of external communication. If I look at my own career when I started in 2003, moving from being a journalist, moving into internal communication, I was very much focused on internal communication and didn’t do any external Comms at all. Throughout my 10 years, I worked in-house, I predominantly did internal communication roles.

As professional Communicators, it's our business to know our business.

And I would say I was more of a generalist in terms of I didn’t specialise in one particular area. So, I could turn my hand to writing for the intranet, I could turn my hand to change communication in a broad sense. I didn’t choose to specialise in change communication, but I knew how to read the organisation and knew how to gather insights and evidence and turn them into action. Towards the end of my in-house career, I did do a Head of Comms role, which was internal and external.  But my last in-house role was back to internal again.

When you’re looking at job adverts, what do you get a sense of? So, you need to know how they’re recruiting.

Look at the job adverts and get a sense of the maturity of internal communication within an organisation.

Now, there’s a few ways to do this. One of the best ways I think is to gauge how big the internal communication team is. So, you’re looking for the language within the job description. And also go into LinkedIn and you can also find the rest of the Comms team.

So when you’re looking at a job advert, think about, is this the type of organisation I would like to work for? Does its values match with mine? What can I glean about the organisation from what I can pick up online?

See what you can glean from the organisation online. What do they say about themselves? What do employees say?

So, how do employees talk about the organisation? What does it say on the organisation’s Glassdoor profile, which is known as the trip advisor for organisations? If you’ve never come across Glassdoor before, go to glassdoor.com. There’s quite a few different variations of this website around.

Now, there’s other people who are doing something similar. I’ll include some notes in the show notes.

Further reading: Glassdoor. Others include: Indeed, Great Place to Work, Methodology, The Muse.

But what you’re looking for here Comms friends is, what does the organisation say about itself? And what do employees say? And is there a disconnect between what the organisation says, maybe in job descriptions and value statements and information on their recruitment website, versus what its employees are saying on their own social media and what they’re saying on Glassdoor when they’re reviewing things like the management, the pay, the culture?

So, we need to do our homework. Also, when you’re looking at job description, if it says you will be the very first internal communicator in the organisation, this could go one of two ways in my experience.

And I’ve done this, I’ve gone into an organisation and been the very first comms professional. You have a blank canvas. So depending on where you’re at in your internal communication career, you may decide this is an amazing challenge that you want to get your teeth into and really help shape the function, set it up, create channels, set standards.

Or maybe what you actually want is to have somebody who is above you that you can learn from. I was helping somebody recently who’s been going through interview processes, trying to find a new job. And I asked her, what is it that a great environment looks like for you? And she said, I really want to learn from somebody. I want to be working in-house. And I want to have a really supportive manager who will teach me things about internal communication.

And that was really helpful because it then narrowed down her search. So anything that came through in terms of job adverts that had one person where you are a team of one, that would not be the right fit for her because she knew, she’s been working in internal communication for three years. She knew that she wanted to be in a really supportive environment that will help her grow and develop on the job.

So when you’re looking for roles, and I wonder if you’re going through this situation at the moment, you’re looking for a job and you’re not quite sure where to look and you’re not quite sure where to start. My advice is to make yourself visible. So, this is something that you need to do. Make yourself visible if you are looking for a job.

There are functions now within LinkedIn, where you can change your profile. I guess let’s back up. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, get a LinkedIn profile. This is known as your professional CV online.

I think of it as a window into your world, so this is your professional world. And you’re helping employers get a sense of who you are, what’s important to you, the experience that you have, and the things that you’re interested in.

One thing to do is create a LinkedIn profile if you don’t have one. And if you do have one, imagine it through the eyes of a recruiter. So, look back at the experience that you’ve had. Think about the positions that you may have held already.

Or if you’re brand new into the world of work, have you got any volunteering experience that you can include in there? What have you done outside work that could be really valuable to add? That could be languages that you speak. It could be volunteering opportunities with the Scouts perhaps, or young people’s clubs, or maybe volunteering for local charities, whatever you do that you think would be useful and valuable for potential employment. Make sure that’s reflected on your LinkedIn.

It’s important that you’re also aware of how you come across in terms of the way you present yourself, not just about your experience and the language that you’re using in terms of describing the things that you’ve done, but your photograph as well.

Make sure that it’s a professional looking shot. This doesn’t mean you need to go out and spend money, having professional shots taken. My LinkedIn profile was for years, the photo that I used everywhere actually across all of my social profiles, my husband took in our sitting room. We took a photograph off the wall and we took a photograph of me standing in front of where the picture had been on the wall. And in fact, because we had taken a picture down off the wall. If you look closely, there was a little hole above my head where we taking out the pin, where the photograph was hanging, where the picture was hanging.

What impression does your LinkedIn profile give potential recruiters?

You don’t need to have a professional shot, but it shouldn’t be a selfie. It shouldn’t be a photograph of you at a wedding with a tuxedo on or a nice outfit on where you’ve cropped out somebody else who was standing next to you because you think that’s a good photo of you. Probably is and that’d be brilliant for Facebook, but think about a recruiter.

Now they’re not hiring you for what you look like, but having an awareness, particularly when you’re working in Comms or branding, and how you come across is really important. So if you don’t have a professional photograph with nobody else in it, and I mean professional looking with nobody else in it, it is a selfie.

Think whether it’s appropriate in terms of what you’re wearing. So if you are shirtless in the photograph or if you have a strappy top in the photograph and the photograph is cropped, it’s probably not going to be communicating the exact image and message that you wanted to.

So, do take this seriously. It’s a really small thing to be aware of, but it can help present the first image of you. So, what do you want that photograph to say? I hope that’s helpful. Let’s just think about one more thing for you to do before we take a short break. One of the questions that I was asked ahead of recording this episode was around the best ways to sell yourself. So imagine that we’re really pleased, your LinkedIn profile is looking great. It talks about the need to be visible.

Use your LinkedIn profile to show what you’re interested in. So imagine if you are looking for a job in internal communication and you know there’s something in particular that really interests you, maybe it’s frontline worker communication, maybe it’s line manager communication, maybe it’s people who work in retail environment and how they internal communication happens. Whatever it is that really interests you, how can you evidence that through your job applications? So, I think one of the best ways to sell yourself is to show up and be visible and join conversations online about this particular topic.

Use your LinkedIn profile to show what you're interested in. Let recruiters see how you think, how you work and what's important to you.

Now, there’s a number of ways you can do that. There are various Twitter chats that take place. Some are weekly, some are fortnightly, some are monthly. I’ll include some links within the show notes for this episode to give you a sense of just some of the Twitter chats that are available.

But the best thing to do I think is to show up and start adding value. Start sharing your thinking. Start being visible particularly about these topics. If you’re applying for particular jobs, so maybe you’re applying for an internet manager job, what do you think about internet? What does a great internet look like? How can you show up and be visible? There are many things you can do. Everybody has the ability within LinkedIn to write an article. If you go to your profile and choose, write an article, it then enables you to write an article within the body of LinkedIn. So, you don’t need a separate website. You can use the platform to share the five biggest mistakes I see on internet, or five things about internets that I love.

Or maybe look at award entries that have been successful and look at what made them a winning award entries. The options are limitless here. But what you’re looking for here, comms friends, and what you were planning to do is making yourself visible about the topic. So then when you’re applying for jobs and recruiters are looking you up, they can see more about you. They can see how you think. They can see how you view the particular area that you’re interested in. Or maybe you could do a Pinterest board on the most beautiful looking internets. Who knows? You could have some fun with this. You could also offer to guest post on other people’s websites.

My All Things IC blog has been going for 12 years and I’ve featured hundreds of internal communicators on my site. Why not think about getting in touch with me? If you’re looking for a job and there’s a particular topic that you’re really interested in, you’re working in-house and you want to raise your profile, why not get in touch with me? Tell me what you’re thinking and let me know how I can help you. Feel free to get in touch via allthingsic.com/contact, and let me know.

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We’re going to work through the questions that were shared with me. So, this is what we need to think about. Now, we’ve already talked about applying for internal communication roles, but I just want to expand on that a little bit in terms of how you submit your applications. And it will vary from organisation to organisation. Some people need you to have a CV. Other people require you to fill in a questionnaire. I’ve even seen some people require you to do a video as part of an application.

Make sure that you read through the requirements really carefully. It’s also worth bearing in mind whether the role is going through an agency or it’s direct. Sometimes organisations recruit in both ways where the company themselves will have a job advert on their website, as well as put it out to various agencies, whether they’re comms recruiters or another type of recruiter.

Be aware of that, because that would change who you interact with. You’d either deal directly with the organization, perhaps their HR or people at department, or maybe you wouldn’t actually ever get to talk to them unless you got through to interview because you’re going through a recruitment agency. Be mindful of that.

There are pros and cons for both. So when thinking about applying for a job, be mindful in terms of how you want to apply. Do you want to go directly to companies or do you want to go through a recruitment agency? And there’s lots on the market. One of the other questions that I was asked was how to prepare for an interview. I do recommend if you’ve been invited to interview to an organisation, I do recommend looking up who else is working there already. Maybe you have some second or third level connections on LinkedIn.

So, just to bust that wide open in terms of the jargon. What that means is you may not be directly connected to somebody who works at this particular organisation, but someone who you are connected to may know them, therefore they’re a second level connection. Or someone that you are connected to is connected to someone else who’s connected to someone else and so on. So, that will be a third level connection.

The reason that can be helpful is it can give you a sense of who else is within the Comms team. Sometimes if you do have a connection who happens to be within your network, you may feel comfortable getting in touch with that person and saying, I’ve been called for interview at your organisation.

Would you mind having an informal chat with me? And you often find that within the job advert itself, whereas I’ve got job adverts on my All Things IC blog.

And sometimes at the very bottom of the job advert, it will say things like, when you’re applying for a job, you can call such and such, so-and-so for an informal chat. So, look for that. If that’s offered, take people up on that opportunity. Because it gives you a sense of what the organization is like and you can ask great questions and get a real sense of, would this be the right company for me? Would that be a good fit for me? And would I be a good fit for them? In terms of how to prepare for interview, some people will tell you what to expect from interviews.

So you might have a written test, for example. You might have a competency based test or a skills test. Normally and particularly if you go through recruitment agency, they should be able to tell you that. Whether it’s directly to the company or through an agency, they should tell you what to expect from the interview. They might say, expect to have a written test.

I remember one of my in-house roles that I did an interview for. In fact, it was at Visa. When I interviewed at Visa I got told, you will be doing a telephone interview with one of our colleagues in South Africa. And I did. So part of my interview was I had a discussion with the chaps who ultimately became my boss and my boss’s boss. And then I was asked to call a colleague in South Africa, interview him, and then write it up as a piece of content and article for our internet. So, it was a written test. But I quite like that approach. I thought that was a really nice way of doing it. And now, I asked whether I could make the call while sat amongst the comms team. And that was two fold really. I lived a really long way away from the office.

The office was in Paddington in West London and I lived in Southend in Essex, which is on the East Coast. It’s a pretty long train journey. And I thought by the time I get home and worked at when I’ll be able to call this person, it would be a really long time to then write it up and send the test back. So I thought, what if I did it here? What if I was able to do it? And then, I’d have an opportunity to get to meet the rest of the comms team if they sit me in the comms team. And that’s exactly what happened.

It worked beautifully for me because I not only got to speak to my colleague in South Africa or eventual colleague in South Africa and interview him and write it up, but I got to see their systems. I got to see what they were using. I got to sit amongst the comms team and have a really informal chat.

And I was the only candidate to do that. It wasn’t some big design or big plan, but what it gave me, comms friends, was an indication of who these people, what would they be like to work with. And in fact, it’s one of the best jobs that I ever had in-house. The team were brilliant as I discovered from that very short snapshot into their world and what they were doing. So when you’re thinking about preparing for interview, something that I also did actually for that interview was I remember coming with my portfolio and I remember I actually got my head in my hands. Yes, a big quote in this. I remember feeling, I think they’d probably want to see examples of my written work. So, I went in with a folder and I remember talking to my eventual boss’s boss during one of my interviews.

Make sure you know whether you're required to bring anything or do anything for the interview. What will the format be?

I said I’ve brought my portfolio for you to see. And he said, but I don’t need to see that. It’s up to you. Do you want to show me anything in particular that you want to show me? And I said, oh, no, not particularly. I just wondered whether you’d want to see my writing. And he said, no. And it was, oh, it makes me cringe now when I think back on it. But I thought that was what would be expected of me. It was one of my very first comms jobs. I hadn’t really had many comms jobs before that. And I thought that would probably be what was expected. And it wasn’t. So top tip, do ask in advance. Am I required to bring anything? Because I ended up just lugging this portfolio from Essex to West London and back again. So, avoid that!

Thinking about how to prepare for interview as well, think about it is a cultural fit in terms of, are you right for the organisation and are they right for you? So, one of the questions I was asked was around good questions to consider. When you’re thinking about good questions.

This in fact, it was a conversation I had recently in one of my power hours with Comms pros. I offer Power Hours that Comms pros can choose to use for whatever they need, whether they want to test their idea with me or run a campaign by me.

Or in this particular scenario recently, I was helping somebody prepare for a final stage interview. And we had this discussion around questions and she was asking me, what questions do you think I should be asking in the interview? And I said, well, what have they asked you already? And we talked through that.

What conditions would you need to thrive in a role? What are your requirements?

And we talked very candidly, as you would expect. And that we talked very candidly and I said, well, this is about you testing them out as much as they’re testing you out. So, what are the conditions when you thrive? What would the environment need to be like for that role to suit you?

That shows up in a number of ways to me. What I’m looking for when I talk like that is I’m looking for, I know for me to thrive in a role. I need to feel autonomy. I need to feel trusted. I need to feel empowered. And there’s difference between autonomy and empowerment, but that’s a topic for another day. In fact, my friend Jenni Field wrote about that recently. I will include a note in the show notes if you’re interested to know more about that. Further reading.

I need to feel able to crack on with my work. I need to be able to be a personal authority within the work that I’m doing and have complete autonomy over it. That’s a really good condition for me. If I’m in a role where that happens, which is why I make a great consultant, because that’s what I do, I’m in control of the work that I do and the work that my team does, then you’re going to get the best out of me. And you can ask that in interview.

So asking questions enable you to filter out in terms of how much autonomy does this role have, or how much of this role requires me to make decisions, or am I following instructions. Questions like that. Can you see the difference there?

What you’re trying to do is get to the heart of, I know what makes me tick. I know the conditions where I thrive. How could I make sure that I’ve asked as much as I possibly can to test the water with this organisation?

And you can ask questions around the team. You can ask them to describe the culture. You can ask them why the person, if you’re replacing somebody else, why the person left before you? That’s a great question to ask. And it’s interesting to know what the answer is. Now, if you’re going through a recruitment agent, then that’s a question you can ask them. When you’re being put forward for a position, you can ask the recruitment agency to find out why this role has become available. Is it because there’s difficult stakeholders to work with and the position became available because the person doing the role just found it untenable and had to leave, perhaps. Or is it, we’re really excited about internal comms and we’ve created and invested in this role because there’s a gap with our frontline workers and we’re really hoping that this role will help fill it, for example.

So, these are great questions to ask to understand the conditions that have been created for this particular role to exist. Because then you know, if you’re successful for the role, you know what you’re walking into. Other questions I encourage you to consider are around the perception of internal communication. To know that before you go into the organisation is really helpful.

So things like:

  • How would your employees describe the way internal communication happens in the organisation?
  • Can you help me understand what your leaders think about internal communication?
  • How does the CEO describe the internal comms team?

You can ask any number of questions. And any one of those will give you an insight into the culture, into the way we do things around here, and into their understanding and maturity when it comes to internal communication. There was a lot in there. I hope you find that really helpful.

Something that we haven’t covered is how to find a job in internal comms. I talked before in season one of the Candid Comms podcast about the need to build your network within the world of internal communication. So many opportunities occur when people make connections with each other.

So many opportunities occur when people spot a vacancy with someone else they’re working with and they recommend it to someone else. So I think the more that you build your network and you get known within the world of internal communication, the better. So join things like ICology, a global membership for internal communicators. Join conversations online.

Be visible. Give back to the community. Show what you’re passionate about. Get in touch with me and offer to write a guest posts on a topic that really lights you up. I hope that was helpful.

As ever, I’d love to know what you’re going to do differently as a result of listening to this Candid Comms podcast episode. If you are applying for jobs, good luck. I hope the process works out really smoothly for you. If you’ve been applying for jobs for a while, do listen to this episode and think about, what could I do differently to get the outcome that I want?

But I wish you the very best of luck.

Post author: Rachel Miller.

First published on the All Things IC website 13 June 2021.

How to be a strategic internal communicator

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