The year 2020 was unlike any in recent memory given the chaos created by the pandemic. Nothing could have prepared those of us new to the communications industry for the year that we went through. But that’s what working in the field of strategic communications is all about, right? Preparing for the unexpected!
Launching a career in communications during a global pandemic was a major challenge to say the least. The lines between my professional and personal life blurred and I started my first day on the job working from home, connecting with my colleagues, and meeting my clients on Zoom.
Young professionals like myself, who transitioned from being college students to media and communications specialists during the biggest health crisis of our lifetime can relate to the difficulties of learning the job in a completely virtual world.
The communications department at my university touted public relations and communications as offering a foundation for a career in any profession that deals with the public. The curriculum provided courses in public speaking, writing and journalism, presentation skills, media relations, social media, and other relevant coursework all to prepare us for the required skillset needed in our future careers.
Unfortunately, all the college courses I took were no substitute for working in the very real and very virtual world.
After a virtual graduation ceremony in May 2020, I prepared to the best of my ability to launch my career the following month. Despite my best efforts, I was faced with a number of challenges unique to working in a remote setting, among them:
Onboarding from home
This is an overwhelming process in normal times. When this process gets done from your childhood home, rather than in an office where you can ask questions face to face, your stress levels peak.
Learning your role
Not only is onboarding challenging in a virtual setting, learning your new role and responsibilities within the company, your clients’ business and industry, communication platforms, and time management were daunting to say the least. At times I felt overwhelmed with nobody next to me to turn to for help and guidance. I imagine it took longer than usual for me to get fully up to speed, a challenge I assume others in my situation were confronted with.
Adjusting to a WFH environment
Sure, you could always send an email or text, or pick up the phone to ask for assistance on how to work most effectively in a remote setting. But my colleagues were often just as uncertain how to operate while working from home. It took some time, and after a while we became experts at navigating Zoom, making do with sometimes spotty Wi-Fi service, and spending days at a time without leaving the house. The initial few months were a challenge, but one we all went through together, creating strong bonds amongst us.
A major part of working in strategic communications is building relationships with journalists, producers and other members of the media.
Prior to the pandemic, industry professionals had the opportunity to take reporters to lunch, grab a cup of coffee, get to know one another over a drink, or attend conferences together. Unfortunately, we were not able to meet face to face with anyone other than our immediate family, so interaction with the press was out of the question.
Any connection made was developed solely through email or on LinkedIn. Among the things I look forward to most from a professional standpoint is meeting the many members of the media I have gotten to know virtually, and building new relationships, in person.
Reflecting on a career started virtually
As I approach my one-year anniversary with Lansons Intermarket, I feel that I am finally finding my groove.
The timing of my new-found confidence in my abilities also happens to coincide with the rollout of vaccines and the lifting of restrictions, which assures us that some of the traditional activities such as meetings with journalists, networking events and company happy hours will return soon.
Though it was challenging to rely on email, texts and Zoom meetings as our primary forms of communicating this past year, we have managed to make do. In the first year of my career in communications, I’ve learned to always anticipate the unexpected and solve problems independently.
That is the silver lining of starting my career as I did, and I believe I will be a stronger communications professional as a result.