How to declutter your worklife and spark career joy

About the author

Heather leads the CIPR public affairs diploma and digital communication diploma courses. PhD, BSc, PG, RSA, CAM  

Have you been inspired by Marie Kondo and Mrs Hinch to declutter your home and make it sparkle? In this PR Place column, Dr Heather Yaxley focuses on finding career joy and Spring cleaning your career.

Q. Help – I’m looking for new opportunities in my career. But my online brand is visually tired, my digital content is cluttered, and I’m bored with posting status updates. How can I bring the freshness back?

A. Create a career mood board to help you develop a new look and feel for your brand, redefine the focus of your digital content and discover a purpose in posting online.

Start with a new colour scheme – if you’re stuck for inspiration use a colour palette site or research trends in fashion, décor or graphic design. Visualise yourself in a new role – find photographs that capture the look. Explore image databases for textures, typography, shapes, styles, and compositions that appeal to you.

Next do a fast audit of your digital content. Decide what you’d like to delete, archive or keep. Add themes and keywords relating to your keep-it content to your mood board. You may already feel motivated to revisit and update some of these topics.

Finally, determine the direction you’d like to move with your career. Reflect on your interests, what you enjoy doing, what motivates you. Review your reading habits and screen grab images, articles, headlines and quotes to add to your mood board.

Create a physical or digital mood board (for example using Canva) and curate the images, thoughts, ideas, words and inspirations that best reflect how you can add energy to your online brand, repurpose your digital content and find your posting joy.  

Q. turned fifty a few years ago and have started to notice instances of unconscious bias towards myself and other older people working in PR and communications. I’m not ready to retire – so what’s your advice for enjoying the rest of my career?

A. The PR Place #50over50 series is a real celebration of the talents, backgrounds and future ambitions of those who bring wisdom, knowledge and experience to the PR profession. Not only are we among good company; we have earned the right to work in our chosen occupation. Indeed, as Ann Pilkington has written: “many PR campaigns need to reach the more mature customer – we’re a growing group often with money to spend and who better to understand that demographic?

It is important to realise your value to employers, clients, colleagues and contacts. Find ways to help others, act as a mentor and role model, provide a safe pair of hands, offer insight from past experiences, and draw on your first-hand knowledge of people, places and what are now vintage and retro trends for creative ideas.

And don’t forget the importance of cultural references. Supplement your passion for particular genres of music, fashion, film, cars, sport and literature, with modern equivalents. Bring happiness to the work place and spark joy as a fun colleague.

At the same time, older workers should keep up to date. Fortunately many of the basic skills remain relevant. But remember to refer to your LinkedIn contacts rather than your little black book. It’s okay to reveal your writing abilities through long-form thought leadership articles, which are on-trend – and then offer to coach your younger colleagues.

It is also never too late to become proficient in an emerging area of practice through training and learning. Even better, why not sign up for a qualification? The CIPR has just launched a new Specialist Diploma in Digital Communications, which connects management capabilities to the latest developments in technology and online communications.

Regardless of your level of experience in a field, you will benefit from an intense period of study. The CIPR suite of post-graduate level qualifications includes Internal Communication, Crisis Communications and Public Affairs as well as Digital Communications. Each is designed for experienced professionals and draws on theoretical and practical frameworks. Assessment involves a work-based assignment.

Q. It seems to be getting harder to retain young people as account executives in PR/communications roles. We are an award-winning consultancy and have lots of exciting but demanding client accounts. Are there ways we can reconfigure our working environment to support career development with us?

A. There is a conundrum in PR/communications careers where recruiters recognise that talented individuals are in short supply, yet a long hours culture, and low pay at the start of a career affect motivation and engagement. In some cases, promises of investment in professional development or career progression are made but not kept, further demoralising employees.

There are also reports of generational differences in expectations and career ambitions. Combined with a premium placed on experience, it is not surprising that packing up and moving on can appear to young employees to be the only way to gain promotion, pay rises and potentially more secure employment.

Having said this, the following talent tactics should help reduce the temptation for account executives to make a clean break and a swift exit.

  1. Create a learning culture. Talented employees want to be encouraged and nurtured in learning new skills. They appreciate regular recognition of their achievements using thank you cards, online praise and team acclamation. But the most powerful motivation is intrinsic, when someone is curious and able to gain new knowledge or skills in a supportive learning community. Coaching, feedback, teamwork and other collaborative approaches encourage an open environment where learning is natural and sustainable. 
  2. Establish a learning and development (L&D) strategy. This involves a framework of planning, implementation and evaluation around developmental goals, priorities, budgets and required outcomes. Within the framework, a personal one-page career development résumé should be crafted with each individual as a statement of learning intent. Opportunities for achieving specified L&D outcomes can be found inside and outside the workplace. 
  3. Rewarding return on investment. Establishing an evidence-base for professional development helps to justify investment in talented individuals. It also creates a record of sustainable, tangible and intangible learning outcomes to form the basis of regular appraisals and reviews.
    Putting a value on learning benefits both employer and employee. For your agency, it will enhance your competitive position; improve team loyalty and support forward planning. This last point is important as up-skilling employees enables them to generate greater income, attract and train other talented individuals and create a virtuous growth circle. In turn, they can be rewarded financially and through career progression. Indeed, they may be encouraged to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset and expand the business in new directions.

Ultimately investing in sustainable career development using these talent tactics will address the need for young employees to gain promotion, pay rises and more secure employment.