So, you’ve got a degree (or you’re almost there). What’s next? Whether you already have a specific career in mind or are still searching for one that best suits your skills and interests, the great part is you have a world of opportunity ahead of you.
Creativity in pensions
After graduation, I worked as an auditor for two years for a large corporation in the US and realised that I wanted something more creative.
To my surprise, I found a creative outlet in the pensions industry. I joined Anthony Hodges Consulting (AHC) as a Communications Consultant in October 2008, after moving to the UK from the US. Pensions is an important yet complex topic that impacts nearly everyone. I enjoy the fact that I help produce communications that allow people to better understand their pension arrangements and plan for their retirement.
In my first few months at AHC, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a talented team of consultants, graphic designers, media specialists and web developers to creatively communicate pension information to employees of large companies across the UK. I’ve also enjoyed working closely with a variety of clients in different industries on several types of projects, such as scheme booklets, newsletters, websites and audience research.
In general, my role as a Communications Consultant involves three main areas:
- Copywriting and proofreading
- Project management
- Audience research.
Copywriting and proofreading
I develop messages and write text (i.e. ‘copy’) for the different media we produce. This process is known as copywriting. An important initial stage of copywriting is developing key messages that are tailored to the audiences who will receive the communications. I work closely with clients and colleagues to develop these messages as well as the overall layout of each piece of communication. At this point, the writing and proofreading process can begin.
Every week is quite different, but I can usually expect to proofread about five different pieces of communication. This can include anything from booklets and newsletters to websites and pensioner magazines. It usually takes at least a couple of hours to thoroughly proofread a 20-page scheme booklet, for example. The consulting team uses a peer review process, in which we rely on each other to proofread one another’s material with fresh eyes. I enjoy this, as it allows me to see a variety of projects that I am not directly involved with.
One of the most satisfying parts of my job is seeing projects through from start to finish. This requires liaising with clients, suppliers and internal teams to manage each project. I attend scoping meetings to establish with the client what the project will entail (key audiences, budgets, timelines, etc). Throughout each project, I liaise with the design team, media specialists, and the web development team to progress different aspects of the project.
I enjoy working with the different teams as I am always learning something new. With every new project, I look forward to seeing the design team transform text into designs that meet each client’s unique branding and style guidelines. I also work closely with suppliers, such as printers, to ensure that all the jobs are produced according to the client’s specifications and are delivered on schedule.
With several projects going on at any one time, organisational and communication skills are essential. Every day, a portion of my time involves emailing and calling clients to discuss details of the ongoing projects. The days tend to be quite fast paced, but our team always finds time to have a laugh!
In order to better understand the communication needs of the employees who receive our communications, I help conduct audience research. For example, I’m currently writing a report that summarises the results of recent focus groups we’ve conducted for a client.
I’m eager to compile results, as they’ll provide valuable insight into the current perceptions that young employees have about their company’s pension scheme. The results will provide a basis for the upcoming communications campaign aimed at increasing membership of the scheme. I’ve also conducted audience segmentation research, allowing me to use the data analysis skills that I acquired as an auditor.
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned since graduation is to find a career that suits your interests and allows you to develop your strengths. Everyone has a unique combination of skills that allows us to excel in different areas. Once you’ve found what it is you’re good at and enjoy doing, everything else will fall into place. I’ve had the opportunity to combine my communication skills, financial knowledge and creativity at AHC.
I’m lucky to work with a wonderful, professional team that has helped me learn the ins and outs of communications consulting, pensions and living and working in the UK! I look forward to further developing the knowledge and skills that will help my career progress.