YorkAlumni5 – 1 – Sarah Browning

One of the features of our new website will be something called YorkAlumni5. This is basically 5 questions that we ask of a York alumnus though LinkedIn to share their best experience of university but most importantly to give us an insight into what they do now and how to go about getting a job in their sector. They are also giving their contact details so if you have any questions do get in touch with them. Many thanks to all alumni who taken time out to answer our questions.

And without further ado first up let me introduce you to Sarah Browning who works in the communication industry…….

1. What did you read at York and why?
I studied German and Linguistics at York. If I’m honest, it was mostly because German was my favourite school subject and all my friends were going to uni. But I was also intrigued by linguistics and wanted to learn more about how people use language.

2. What are your favourite memories from university?
So many fabulous memories of my time at York! I loved meeting lots of new people (many of whom I’m still good friends with 20 years later) and living independently for the first time. Derwent is my college, so many happy memories from Derwent Bops, bar crawls around campus and in town, the Derwent BBQ, which I helped organise in my second year. I was press and publicity rep on the JCRC, something which I only really did because I thought it would look good on my CV, but which is surprisingly closely linked to what I do now so those skills must have sunk in somehow! I still think of York (city and campus) as my spiritual home, despite not having lived there since 1996. My love for York is so great that I’ve even named my company after it – Browning York Ltd.

3. When did you graduate and who do you work for now?
When I left York in 1996 with a 2:1 in language and linguistics, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I needed to start earning some money so I took a temp job doing pensions admin at the Prudential. Because it was a large company I got to see all the different types of job that exist and discovered that organisations employ people to write magazines, enewsletters and other communications for their staff (these are called internal communications). I realised that’s what I wanted to do, so when an opportunity came up in the Internal Communications team at the Pru, I went for it! That was 12 years ago. After a couple of years I moved to be Internal Comms manager at Cancer Research UK, a large research charity, where I was communicating with 3,500 employees doing all sorts of roles, from researchers to fundraisers and administrators to IT people. When I was made redundant 7 years later, I decided to set up my own company as an Internal Communications consultant working with charities and not-for-profits. I now work with a variety of clients, from The Children’s Society and ActionAid UK to the University of Southampton.

4. What do you do on a day to day basis in your job?
I work with organisations to help them work out why they need to communicate and what they want to say. I give them advice about the best ways to communicate with their staff – the options available to them are increasing all the time, from traditional magazines and email to social media and blogs. It’s important that they use the most effective options to achieve their aim. I often write text for them too. No two days are the same. Basically, I talk to people, listen to what they say and then I advise them on what to do next! I write strategic plans, recommendations, reports, news items and features, to name just a few things. Since I run my own business, there are a lot of other things I have to do too – admin, marketing, invoicing, getting new clients etc.

5. What advice do you have for current York students looking to gain employment in your field/for your company?
Internal communication is finally coming into its own as a recognised profession, so now is a great time to get involved. The Institute of Internal Communication has a lot of information about the skills required at different career levels, so it’s worth taking a look at their site (www.ioic.org.uk) and thinking about how you can articulate the skills and experience you have that match up to what employers will be looking for. Because we are a relatively new profession, there are no hard and fast rules about the qualifications or experience you should have. If I were recruiting at entry level, I would be looking for good writing skills, a belief in the power of good communication, the ability to understand and empathise with others and to work well in a team. Understanding how good communication links to business objectives is important too. You also need to be organised and good at planning – internal comms teams tend to be small and you usually have several projects on the go at once, so you need to be able to juggle things. Technical skills in web content management or production of other communication channels such as e-newsletters are useful, but they can be taught to the right candidate. Social media is a really new channel for internal communications, so I’d advise getting on to things like LinkedIn and Twitter and following internal comms specialists to learn more.

My name: Sarah Browning

My company: Browning York Ltd

My website: www.browningyork.wordpress.com

My Twitter id: @BrowningYork

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