Cast your mind back to your first five years on the job… For some of you it may not have been that long ago, while for others it may feel like another lifetime, but no matter how long you’ve been in the communications biz, if you’re reading this – you’ll know those first five years are critical.
My first five years started in a small boutique PR agency in Auckland before my OE took me to Edinburgh, where I worked in a medium sized agency for two years. I made my way to Mango in 2019 and haven’t looked back. Going from small to medium, local to international and back again, has allowed for unique insights into the wider communications industry and created a desire to help make it better.
I learnt that for those at the beginning of their journey, on the first rungs of the ladder, these are the make or break years. It’s the period of time you either fall in love with the industry or make the decision to walk away. These decisions are largely influenced by the company you work for, the support you are given and of course, the work you get to do.
But who guides these industry newcomers? Who helps shape their expectations of their exciting new career and who can they turn to for advice if they’re not quite comfortable in their roles just yet? Enter The First Five Rungs.
The First Five Rungs is the Comms Council’s Young Leadership Group. We have identified an essential need for the communications industry to connect with and support new talent in order to ‘future proof’ our industry. I joined because I loved the mission: to engage and inspire newcomers, and to challenge the industry and the future of the communications world in Aotearoa.
It’s no secret that communications is a sought after, thrilling and demanding industry. We’ve long lauded the ‘Work hard, play hard’ motto and in fact, it’s one of the many reasons newcomers are keen to get into the industry. But with it can come long hours, stimulating but hard work, and rightfully high expectations from both client and agency.
So what do we do to help our newcomers navigate the challenging but rewarding waters of the PR, advertising, digital, social and experiential world?
It can be hard to support your newcomers if you don’t know what challenges they are facing or struggling with. The first step to understanding and supporting our newbies is engaging with them.
The First Five Rungs not only engages industry newcomers directly, through networking events, coffee catch ups and social media content, but we also encourage agencies and the wider industry to directly engage with their juniors themselves.
Seemingly small, these catch-ups offer an opportunity for management to connect with their juniors and develop a relationship that encourages open dialogue and trust – two very important elements in employee retention.
For those of us who have been in the industry for some time, we understand the many fulfilling perks that come with the job - and no, I’m not talking about long lunches with clients, although those are good!
Producing award-winning work is what keeps us motivated and inspired, but as a junior there are many years of grind and experience to be gained before you sink your teeth into the big, juicy campaigns that grip the headlines and secure you the Grand Prix.
This can be disheartening for those chock-full of energy and creativity, with grandiose ideas of joining the industry and diving head first into the campaigns that win the awards. Keeping your juniors inspired enough to continue on their journey requires a balance of communication and letting them in behind the scenes.
Offer them a taste of what’s to come by allowing them in on the process. Giving them access to your experience is invaluable and can mean the difference between someone deciding this isn’t the industry for them or opting to stay.
Our role in the First Five Rungs is to provide opportunities to learn for industry newbies, whether this is through the social content we share or hosting networking events with inspiring guest speakers. We’ve learnt that the more access and insight we can share with the newcomers, the more inspired they become, and this helps them accept the hard yards.
Mango and the wider DDB Group Aotearoa do a fantastic job of keeping the whole team inspired, whether that’s via our monthly ‘Mango Masters’ sessions which introduce new skills across all levels, or the DDB ‘Inspire Series’ which brings inspiring people and topics to the agency.
It goes without saying this industry is a fast-moving and ever-evolving beast, and like any other industry there are highs and lows. The beauty of this field is that it's made up of creative people who are always willing to challenge the status quo.
The First Five Rungs also exists to advocate for newcomers and challenge the parts of the industry that are driving our best and brightest talent away. As a sector we want to do and be better, we just need to know how.
Mango and DDB regularly ask their people what they want, think and need, and are open to change, even if it means challenging the ways things have been done before, such as adopting a flexible work policy.
In 2021, we launched ‘Unexpected Works’ which in itself is a challenge to the work we do and how we do it. We’re encouraged to implement unexpected thinking into everything we do, whether it’s brainstorming an influencer recommendation, thinking of a new way to distribute products via sampling or coming up with ideas that are so bold they could get us fired. Testing the water and pushing the boundaries is what we’re all about.
Having joined Mango in the middle of those first five crucial years on the job, I’m proud to work for an organisation committed to engaging, inspiring and challenging the status quo, and as I pass the mark of my fifth year in the industry, I’m here to stay.
So let’s go back to your first five years on the job. What engaged, inspired or challenged you to stick it out?
Becky Dawson is a Senior Account Manager at Mango Communications and Chair of the First Five Rungs Auckland.