As part of Learning at Work Week, some of our team are sharing their own experiences of learning at work.
In this first blog, Media Manager, Andy, reflects on the role formal qualifications have played in his time at Yorkshire Sport Foundation.
In October, it’ll be eight years since I started working at Yorkshire Sport Foundation. As an amount of time goes, it reads longer than it feels.
It’s only my third ‘proper’ job after University, and the previous two combined only accounted for five years. When I left Leeds Trinity University in 2009, I did so with a Sports Journalism degree that, at that point, I naively thought would be the thing that would get me to all the jobs that I ever wanted. I should have known that I probably thought the same a few years earlier about my National Record of Achievement. Remember those?!
While University did give me some of the hands-on skills needed in a communications role like this, it didn’t really prepare for the job I have today, nor the one I started here eight years ago. Since then I’ve done a couple of formal qualifications with the support of YSF – a Certificate in Professional Marketing and a Professional PR Diploma.
Before enrolling for both of them, I felt I’d reached a point where I had plenty of the pieces in the jigsaw but felt frustrated and restricted in my ability to know how to put them together correctly. You pick up plenty through experience and learning from others, but I didn’t really know why I’d done certain things or done them in a particular way. If I needed to do them again, would I be doing it because it was right or because it was all I knew?
More recently, I found that those practical communications skills I’d learn at university and developed over time were only getting me so far. While there’s still some satisfaction in producing a good podcast or writing a decent blog, if it’s not actually helping to achieve anything bigger, it led me to wonder if there was much point.
That’s what prompted me to take on the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Diploma. I say I took it on, because it definitely felt like an opponent at times. I really enjoyed learning about the role of communication in an organisation and what that has the potential to be. It helped to bring some of those puzzle pieces together and threw a few more into the pile.
The assignments are a double-edged sword. At the end of a working day when the kids are finally in bed, the headspace needed to truly take things in isn’t always there. I enjoyed watching the recorded sessions and getting through the reading, but begrudged the fact it was taking up some of the time I could spend doing something ‘better’.
But now, reflecting as I am without the fear of a looming deadline, I know that it was time well spent and professionally speaking, I couldn’t have done anything ‘better’. It challenged me to think about my profession and my approach to it. When I was asked if my second assignment could be used as an example of best practice for future students, it was a welcome confidence boost that I’m not quite the imposter I sometimes feel.
Just as importantly, I found a genuine enjoyment and interest in what I was reading about and vowed to continue that once the deadline doom had passed. And do you know what? Much to my own surprise, I have. I listen to communications podcasts a couple of times a week, and I’ve blocked out an hour in my diary every two weeks to catch-up on webinars or do brush up on some other areas.
Formal qualifications aren’t for everyone. After the last few years, I’m not in an immediate rush to go and do another one. But I know that as a learner I benefit from that structure and accountability that comes with these sort of things. They are time consuming and don’t come cheap, but I couldn’t have asked for more support on both counts from the people here.
I’m sure I’ll do another one at some point and get another certificate. I could put it in my National Record of Achievement to take to future job interviews. I’ll just need to remember where it is.