A few weeks ago, I talked about a series on Navigating your Communication Career. Today’s focus will be on being an in-house practitioner. It’s no surprise that the majority of communication professionals work in-house for organizations.

Read the original article on the Navigating your Communication Career series

I spent the first 20 years of my Communication career on the inside. First as part of the Reseller Communication team at Cantel AT&T (now Rogers Communication) as they launched the first digital network in Canada. This was followed by several years in the technology industry working for companies like Merisel Canada, Compaq Canada and HP Canada. I completed my full-time in-house career building the Internal Communication Department at Loblaw Companies Limited, Canada’s largest food retailer and largest private-sector employer.

I started my career focused on Reseller and Customer communication and eventually discovered my passion for Internal Communication. That’s what is amazing about working inside an organization. If you’re willing to learn and try something new, you can choose to be a Communication Generalist, a Communication Specialist or move into the ranks of Management and Leadership. You can also test a variety of disciplines including Corporate Communication, Internal Communication, Public Relations, Government Relations and Issues Management. The larger the organization, the bigger the opportunity to grow and learn new things.

In-house Communication pros also have the opportunity to test a variety of industries. I spent most of my career in Corporations but know many colleagues who work in Government or Not-for-Profits. There are also opportunities to work in a variety of sectors from Retail, Technology, Healthcare, Entertainment, and Automotive to name a few.

Smaller organizations allow Communication Professionals to play a number of roles. When I was a team of one at Merisel, I managed the entire Marketing, Sales and Corporate Communication umbrella, while later in my career in a large organization, I became focused on Internal Communication.

What I loved:

  • A regular paycheck
  • Great benefits – including RRSP matching and pension programs
  • Paid vacation
  • The ability to focus on long-term, meaty change projects that I could see from implementation to impact
  • Managing people and growing my team
  • Working collaboratively with other departments on projects
  • Being surrounded by people all the time
  • Advising executives
  • An IT department for questions when technology didn’t work
  • An expense account, company phone and car allowance (once you moved to management)
  • Recognition programs that included thank you gifts, and Stock Option and Share plans. The better the employer, the better the plan.
  • My professional development being paid for including education, upskilling and conferences.

What I struggled with:

  • Lack of flexibility. Some organizations are more flexible than others, but as a people manager, I felt I needed to be accessible to my team and leaders which meant long hours at the office.
  • Working 60+ hours per week on a regular basis. This can vary based on your level and organization.
  • As a people manager, spending most of my time on administration – performance reviews, assigning tasks, coaching, dealing with performance issues, and resolving conflicts – versus the communication consulting work I loved.
  • Not feeling I could share my perspective and thoughts on social media without having it impact the company I worked for. I felt there were constraints on what I could say or comment on publicly.
  • Once I established a strategy, grew the team, and changed processes to the point that they ran on automatic, I got bored. I realized that I was a revolutionary leader versus an evolutionary one.
  • Always feeling like you were competing for a promotion or to keep the job you were in with others nipping at your heels.
  • The reality that I had reached the pinnacle of the Internal Communication positions in my large organization in my 40’s and being told that I would have to give up my focus on internal communication to move up to the next level.
  • The feeling that for those under you to grow, you would have to get out of the way.

A career inside an organization can be truly rewarding. You build strong relationships, and see an organization through ups and downs, experience the good times and the bad. You get a chance to roll up your sleeves and learn every aspect of a business, understand its culture, and learn to manage the politics. My most valuable learnings and experiences happened during changes I helped communicate including mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, integrations, technology integrations, and numerous reorganizations. The most satisfying wins were the ones experienced when you conquered challenges together, knowing you were a part of something bigger.

I encourage every Communication Professional to get some experience on the inside. It’s important to understand the power of the collective and the impact strategic communication can have on the whole. It’s also important to learn about business, finance, planning and the communication needs of various departments and levels within an organization. It will serve you well in any career.

If you’ve worked within an organization, what can you add to this conversation to help those considering an in-house Communication career? Is my experience the same or different from yours?

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