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My job explained: Communications Manager

Sophie Joyce reveals how to get your message across for a career in communications. Read on to find out more.

Could you tell us a bit about your job?

I’m Corporate Communications Manager for UNITE, the UK’s largest provider of the student accommodation. We provide homes for 42,000 students in 130 properties across 23 UK cities. We have also just launched our own charitable foundation, the UNITE foundation to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds and integrating students into the community.

As Corporate Communications Manager it is my job to communicate with all of our external stakeholders like students, universities, investors, communities and the media.

Why did you choose to go into communications?

Communications wasn’t a discipline that I was immediately aware of when I left university. However, I have always loved writing and problem solving and when I found that this field combined the two I knew I’d found my niche. I naturally like to find out as much information as possible about wherever I work, even when it doesn’t relate directly to my role, and communicating about the organisation you work for means you need that broad overview. I have the opportunity to be the voice of my company and to talk to and influence different audiences.

How did you get to where you are now?

After graduating I initially volunteered for a couple of charities to gain experience in an office environment. This quickly led to paid administrative and finance roles and using the skills and experience I developed I was able to secure a graduate business placement at a government organisation.

While working there I arranged shadowing with different areas of the organisation and this was when I realised that I wanted to pursue a career in Communications. I subsequently worked as a Communications Officer in the NHS before moving to my current role.

What’s a typical working day like?

I really enjoy the fact that there is no typical day. The nature of the job also means that whatever you have planned can always be turned upside down by having to react to an enquiry or crisis. But regular tasks include keeping up with news relevant to our industry; writing press releases, articles, and internal news stories; and answering media enquiries.

Some of the current projects I am working on include a new website for the organisation, preparing for our next round of financial reporting, and organising opening events for our new properties.

What qualifications and training do you have?

My degree was in English and History, which certainly helps with written communication. I have also been on training courses in corporate and financial PR.

What other skills do you need?

Good written and spoken communication skills are a must. Good levels of organisation, the capacity to multi-task and prioritise work appropriately, and ability to cope with pressure, all help with the shifting workload and in dealing with reactive media or crises.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Coming into contact and communicating with such a variety of different people, from the range of colleagues I need to talk to, to local charities that we work with that support our charitable Foundation’s objectives, to investors and analysts during our reporting.

Also seeing something that you have written published in a newspaper or magazine can be very fulfilling.  

What’s the most difficult thing about your job?

The job involves reacting to incidents and enquiries so there can sometimes be pressure, especially as there are often tight deadlines to meet.

Was it difficult getting your first job?

Given the current economic climate and jobs market it is always challenging. However I think being prepared to work hard from the bottom of the ladder and show people your potential pays off in the long run.

What advice would you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Use initiative to think of other ways to enhance your skills and experience to help you stand out from the crowd; volunteering, work experience, job shadowing are all great ways of getting noticed and gaining experience that you can use to get a foot in the door. 

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