Do smarter side gigs to upskill

Participating and excelling in extra-curricular activities, was always a shining moment, in the initial years of schooling. Until we hit the boards and demands of higher education. But even then, our parents would ensure to push us into sports or atleast build one constant hobby.

Then why don’t we apply the same formula towards building our careers as communication professionals?

Recently heard on Google podcast, an audio series by HBR Ideacast, where Ken Banta (founder of Vanguard Network) and Orlan Boston (partner at Ernst & Young), emphasise that every aspiring leader must have a side gig, to simply enhance their skills, knowledge and network. Infact they called it the “Strategic Side Gig”, which could help one bring insights to their day job.

And this is what got me thinking about why we as communicators are not working to design our side gigs. We know that writing skills, managing crisis, reputation management, building brand stories – are few big buckets that often one needs to focus upon. But could we add to this skillset beyond just technical training programs? As a communicator, for more than 15 years now, the ability to work across industries and then build my venture – PRestaurants –  into a completely new industry – was possible because of the strong communication fundamentals. But if one would delve deeper, I realise that building stories got easier at every organisation, when I could involve myself in various sales or marketing campaigns. Apart from understanding the ground realities, it equipped me with a new narrative each time.

One of my ex-colleagues at Castrol, infact planned her whole career progression from a communications professional to a Strategic leader today, by picking on excellent side gigs. She would spend more than enough time in understanding new media as well as partnering with teams beyond her job roles. Infact, her passion to paint or be a digital influencer or just a coffee lover, gave her conversation starters with an absolutely new audience and thus an opportunity to add immense value to her day job. Yes, she never lost sight of her current role and its responsibilities. Look her up on Twitter @nomadwanderer and see how she is now creating conversations as a “pet parent”.

Journalist David Epstein, on his recent Ted Talks Daily, shared that specializing early doesn’t always mean career success. Infact those who experimented on a larger canvas seemed to bag better opportunities for themselves, later in their careers, versus those who got into specializations far too early.

So, can we rethink and reimagine how we upskill today, as communication professionals? Some #foodforthought to start with:

  1. Go beyond your comfort zone and read all you can about an industry that you don’t or haven’t worked with. Maybe, some insights from how another sector is growing could be applied to your current industry
  2. Very few people know that Roger Federer played different sports before choosing to settle with Tennis. So, why don’t we go beyond the aim of micro-specialising and instead understand what is it that helps us pick a worldview of facts
  3. We all know our weaknesses, maybe its time to pick a gig and strengthen that shortcoming, which could ultimately help us bring more value to table
  4. Add volunteering projects as a #mustdo for your quarterly goals. Apart from learning the need-gap in the real world, this could be a great opportunity to understand if your brand could partner with any on-ground programs. Then as a communicator, it would be your smart move to build a new story
  5. Make social media your ultimate tool to work on various smaller and smarter side gigs. Pick on projects that could involve remote working as well as some groundwork. This could be a new platform to learn what’s happening and trending in the digital arena

There is more and enough gyaan online to build a “gig career”, infact even renowned brands like Amazon and Uber have announced upskilling through various gigs and projects. Look them up to know all about the conversations. Also, look up a lot of business groups and apps offering varied opportunities.

Never stop learning and sharing, that’s how we will manage to grow beyond the current uncertain times!

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Pooja Trehan
Pooja Trehan, AVP, Communications & Public Policy.

Bringing up a 7 year-old boy and building a career in Communications have possibly been the key driving forces in my life! Obviously, apart from the 6am runs and eternal love for black coffee. The reality of 2020 hit this industry with the worst storm, but gave me a silver lining through awards & recognition in the 40Under40 category for PR and Corporate communication professionals (three of them in one year!). My goal is to keep - Communications - as the big picture, whilst being the wanderlust traveller who is reading all the time!

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