If you’re an ideas person with a flair for writing, you can’t go past a career in communications for diversity and creative stimulation. All businesses need communications specialists, and with rapid change in every sphere due to new technology and social media growth, opportunities abound in every industry.
‘The beauty of the business and communications industry is that job opportunities are endless. Skills can be transferred across different industries through roles in public affairs, corporate communications, event management and new business development,’ says David McDonald, head of college for APM College of Business and Communication.
In this increasingly connected world, communicators are in hot demand. Here’s a look at five of the most exciting options in the world of media and communications.
Media junkies have always been lured to a career in journalism or freelance writing. It’s hard to beat for sheer variety and dynamism, with opportunities in print, radio, TV and online, and different genres such as travel writing or sports writing – but you have to be a resourceful go-getter with a nose for a good story, as well as a thick skin. If you get off on the rush of creating content to tight deadlines, this could be the career for you.
One journalist who has learnt this first-hand is Helen Isbister, the Sky News reporter in Adelaide. Isbister was thrown in the deep end and had to quickly learn all the skills required to be a one-woman broadcasting show. ‘I do all the on-air stuff, as well as my own camera work and producing. I cover everything from politics, sport and business to courts, police and entertainment. It's a big brief, but I enjoy getting to follow the biggest stories of the day and having a lot of variety.’
It’s a perfect career for those who thrive under pressure, but you have to be tenacious. Bill Birtles, a radio journalist for Triple J, advises, ‘First of all, you need to be really persistent just to get a solid job in the industry. Second of all, you need to be able to write. Build up a portfolio of work ASAP – if you’re at university that means start writing for student publications. [Do] anything that shows over time that you have a commitment to actually working in the industry and that you have an interest in current affairs. You need to build up a portfolio of work to make sure that people realise you are keen and ambitious.’
Journalists also need to eat and breathe all things media. As freelance writer and blogger Mia Freedman observes, ‘I think that to be involved in the media you’ve got to be hungry for information, you’ve got to be very curious. Ultimately, to work in media you’ve got to be a very big consumer of media in all forms.’
Marketing and advertising careers are just as dynamic and diverse – just ask Serge Costi, Assistant Brand Manager at Tip Top. ‘I assist the senior brand manager with the planning and execution of Tip Top marketing plans. I am involved in new product development, product launches, advertising communications, consumer research, packaging updates and consumer promotions. I like the hands-on nature of the job and being involved in so many different functions and activities.’
Marketing careers are ever-evolving with the growth of new media and online opportunities. The world of advertising has also had to keep up with the times and provides a stimulating and fertile environment.
Well-known ad man Siimon Reynolds broke into the advertising world at a young age and was a creative director by the time he was 21. According to Reynolds, effective advertising is always about good old-fashioned communication, regardless of technological change. ‘Communication is always the same. It’s still all about selling. It’s like you’re sitting down with someone and you’re convincing them to buy your product, but in this case it’s in an online ad or a Twitter page. You’ve just got to remember that no matter what medium you use, you’ve just got to be persuasive, you’ve got to be liked, and you’ve got to make sense.’
Reynolds has seen people come and go and emphasises the importance of persistence to make it in the industry. ‘It’s hard to get in and hard to master, and it’s hard to rise to the top. So at every level – beginning, middle and senior – you’ve got to be up against yourself, practising, getting better. Be persistent, but be alert throughout your career, not just at the start,’ advises Reynolds.
Want to follow in the Jimmy Choo-shaped footsteps of Sex and the City’s public relations expert Samantha Jones? That would involve managing all manner of communication and public perception about organisations, people, products and specific issues – by handling media, crafting positive messages, getting positive exposure and editorial coverage, and organising events. It’s a fun and challenging career for extroverts who love research, writing, organising, problem-solving and public speaking.
Josh Meadows is media advisor at the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and loves his fun and stimulating job. ‘I track media developments to keep abreast of what’s being reported and what slant the stories are taking, write and disseminate materials such as media releases, background briefings, opinion pieces and web content, and organise events.’
‘I’m doing a job that’s stimulating, important and interesting. I’m working on things I’m passionate about, with a great bunch of people who are so enthusiastic about what they do. I’m in no hurry to move on,’ says Meadows.
Do you have an eye for detail and get excited by correct punctuation and a beautiful font? A career in magazine or book publishing, online publishing or editing could be beckoning.
Amanda Evans is Development Editor at a large book publisher: ‘I enjoy being involved with a book from the initial project research and proposal to management; to then working with authors, editors and designers to shape the direction of the text; to finally putting all the elements together in a final form. My favourite part of the job is seeing the finished book that is the culmination of the team’s hard work. The excitement around the office when a book arrives fresh from the printers is incredible!’
Magazine publishing is a notoriously difficult industry to crack. One of the tricks to getting your foot in the door is to do a stint of work experience – something that all magazine editors recommend. ‘If I could offer any advice to people trying to break into the industry, it would be to secure some sort of ongoing work experience. Even if it means working for free as an intern for 12 months, I have seen so many interns go from being the workie, to the person with a job in publishing,’ says Amanda Nicholls, Editor of Total Girl magazine.
The other universal recommendation from all magazine editors is to network and make the most of your contacts. Former Cosmopolitan Editor Mia Freedman says, ‘So often jobs in the media aren’t advertised, they just go to whoever’s around and whoever’s a known quantity. That’s how I got my job and how a number of staff that I appointed got their jobs. It’s because I met them when they were doing work experience at Cosmopolitan when I was editing.’
Jana Frawley, National Food Editor at News Limited, confirms the importance of making the right contacts. ‘Yes, there is a lot of word of mouth. My advice to anyone coming into the industry is to pull in any contact that you possibly have and nurture any contacts that you make. As you get a few years’ experience under your belt, your contacts recommend you, or let you know when jobs are coming up.’
Technical writing is another area that those with a love of the written word and knowledge of a niche area can consider for a career. It’s a form of writing or documentation used in fields as diverse as computer hardware and software, health, finance, biotechnology and law. As a technical writer, you could be writing software manuals, legal textbooks or financial reports – basically writing in any specialty area for either a technical or non-technical audience. You don’t necessarily have to be an expert to be a technical writer but you need to be able to understand and use technical language, and translate that into plain English.
Jo Chalmers completed a Master’s in English Literature and later studied health science, and then combined her two loves to become a health writer for a large nutraceuticals company. ‘I did two kinds of writing, some marketing material which was for consumers, and more technical writing for health practitioners. Both required lots of research and documentation but they gave me experience in writing for two different audiences, and that versatility is important for any writer.’
Formal training isn’t an absolute necessity for a successful foray into communications, but it’s a competitive field so anything that will give you an edge will help.
According to journalist Helen Isbister, ‘Formal qualifications aren't essential, but nearly everyone in the newsroom has them. It may be a degree in journalism, business, law or PR, just to name a few. Everybody follows their own path, but I think going to university is a great experience which will always be helpful in launching your career.’
There are a plethora of communications courses in journalism, freelance writing, marketing, and publishing and editing on offer. ‘[Communications] students have a head-start in the graduate job market, groomed with the skills and know-how to be “work-ready”. Skills they will use include press release writing, market research, business planning, developing proposals, presenting, negotiation and even interview skills,’ says APM’s David McDonald.
Distance education is growing in availability and popularity in Australia, so communications wannabes can now pursue their studies and hone their skills online, fitting their studies around full-time work and other commitments.
Kerri Jenkins completed her Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) online with Open Universities Australia (OUA). ‘OUA offered me the flexibility and access to study at reputable universities like Monash and Griffith without leaving home. There was no way I would have been able to afford to move from Cairns to further my studies.’
Amber Wilson studied freelance journalism through Open Colleges (formerly known as Cengage Education) by distance and is now working as a freelance writer. ‘I had left a full-time job to have a baby … now that I was a “stay-at-home mum”, I really wanted to find a way of turning my writing skills into profit. This was where the Freelance Journalism course became my new best friend. The tutorials were easy to follow, and being able to work at my own pace, I could study in between caring for my baby.’
‘Perhaps the most useful information I learnt was the best way to approach publications and what to do to increase my chances of selling articles. As a result, a magazine accepted an article and another has been published online with the Sydney Morning Herald. Without this course I never would have had the confidence,’ says Wilson.
To kick-start your media career, browse our communications courses here.