Name: Alex Holliehead
Degree and university: Warwick University – BA English and Theatre Studies, MA Creative Media Enterprises
Job Title: Internal Communications Co-ordinator, John Lewis
What do you actually do? My job is to ensure appropriate and consistent internal communication is provided to all partners across the John Lewis division. This includes:
- Develop and provide support on the delivery of effective communication both within Head Office and our 27 selling branches.
- Assist in the implementation of our Internal Communications strategy – prioritising and implementing key projects across the 3 communication channels – face-to-face, printed and electronic.
- Ensure that Communication channels and processes are clear, monitoring and recommending revisions as needed
- Manage and coordinate events and conferences where key strategic messages to the business are required
- Manage and monitor the Internal Communications budget
Why did you decide to go into this sector? When I joined the John Lewis graduate scheme four years ago, I was based in a number of selling branches and worked my way up to a department manager of a fashion floor with over 70 Partners. Within this role, I found the communication process with my department fascinating and something I was particularly good at. As a co-owned business, it is integral that our Partners understand our brand and the key messages that arise from it and from this the idea of communicating and engaging with a large audience is always a challenge and I relished the opportunity. When I moved to head office the internal communications team based within Marketing was a great way of ensuring that I could use my experiences on the selling floor and develop new processes to assist in communication.
How did you choose your course? I chose the course because it was academic and would challenge my thinking but gave me some practical and creative opportunity as well.
In terms of choosing to apply to the John Lewis graduate scheme, I was attracted to the brilliant ethos of the co-ownership model as well as the great reputation for investing in their workforce – from employee benefits to training and career progression.
Would you undertake further training to progress your career? Absolutely, if there was a course that would help develop my skills further I would definitely consider it. John Lewis are very supportive of further training to enhance skill sets and have a comprehensive internal Learning and development programme as well as supporting external learning.
What do you most like about what you do and are there any downsides? I have to say, I love most of my job. As it is a relatively new function in the business, I can design the role the way as see appropriate. I love the co-ordination of events as this gives me the opportunity to be creative and work with external businesses.
The only downside is that at certain times of the year it can get rather hectic and stressful.
What do you think are the most important skills to succeed at what you do? Having good communication skills both written and verbal, having great stakeholder management skills, being adaptable and reactive to change. You need to enjoy working with people and be passionate and believe in the brand you work for.
What advice would you give graduates wishing to come into this sector? I would recommend anyone that wants to work in Retail get some fundamental shop floor experience. It is difficult to create processes and strategies for a business when you have no first hand operational experience of how the business works at the front end.
Good luck to anyone who chooses this career. It is great fun and full of variety.