A few weeks back, Ville Tolvanen published a pre-Christmas self-assessment and encouraged his readers to stop for a moment to reflect on the work achievements of this year. This is my response. My assessment not only covers the year 2016 but a bit beyond, starting from September 2015 when I started my studies in Aalto University, Master’s program in Corporate Communication.
When I now look back to those days in the beginning of my studies, just a bit over a year ago, I realize how much more I have learned than I could ever have expected. I could say I have grown up much more than a year in age – and now I don’t just refer to my physical appearance. 😉
How Aalto University revealed the new and better me?
During this learning experience, I found that there are no magic tricks that I could learn in this University or in any school to become fully prepared and qualified to ”managing” corporate communication. Instead, what I have gained is much more. It is a new mind-set, a broader perspective to the role of corporate communication professionals. That, together with increased self-awareness, courage and collaboration skills, has made me a better version of myself: a corporate communication professional who doesn’t have all the answers but who is eager to listen, to share, to develop and to be developed.
What it comes to the topics covered during the corporate communication program, I believe I gained the most out of those issues that I hadn’t faced in my job that much. As my work in the Finnish, family-owned company has been mostly related to the company’s internal communication, I enjoyed lot expanding my knowledge to new fields such as investor relations, media management and global communication. It was inspiring to see how communication decisions really have enormous impact on the business success: whether we talk about strategy work and involvement of stakeholders, stock valuation and dialogue with investors or language policy issues in global organizations.
Besides theory, I found extremely helpful the guidance on practices of reader-friendly writing, of delivering bad news and of creating appealing business presentations – aren’t these the kind of things that communication professionals need to master? Of course, the practical skills were developed throughout the studies. How does it look like in numbers:
- group work with 30 different people (from 20+ to 50+, from Finnish to Vietnamese)
- a dozen books and countless academic research articles
- dozens of reflection papers, several posters, an audio-visual animation, a panel discussion and at least 20 presentations.
In addition, I’ve cooperated with various companies, such as Länsiauto, KPMG, Sanoma, Lähi-Tapiola, Palmu and made research on various others, such as Metso, Fazer, Levi’s, Finnair and KONE. This has been an amazing opportunity to learn from numerous professors and visiting lectures and business professionals, for example from Tieto, UPM, Wärtsilä, Ilmarinen and Valmet. However, the biggest value that I’ve gained in the University was from other students. I have met extremely talented, motivated and encouraging people, some of which have become really good friends. The people I’ve met have been the biggest source of my own improvement and I hope I’ve been able to give something also back at them.
Above all, I see this year as a learning process towards myself. I have increased my self-confidence by understanding where I’m already good at and by rehearsing those qualities where I need more improvement. I’ve realized that my biggest advantages are my perseverance as well as ability and willingness to take responsibility. My average GPA (Grade Point Average) is 4.8 – not because I would have tried to get good grades but because I really wanted to learn. And, as a rather small but important victory, I have overcome my fear of presenting (in English) and actually started to enjoy it. Of course, that has been possible only by being forced to face the fear over and over again, sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding.
All in all, I’m thankful for the extensive variety of topics covered in this program, leaving me with a sense of knowing at least something about every aspect of communication in organizations. In general, I’ve got hooked in self-development and I’m confident that the learning journey will not end in the graduation.
Communication professionals of the digital era – are we prepared?
During the studies I also realized that I have to pay more attention to my social media behavior. How credible can you be as a communication professional in the digital era without a proper network and social media audience? This is one issue that wasn’t emphasized at all during the studies, which I would consider as a weakness of this program. As the social media is transforming the communication culture of organizations into more polyphonic and transparent direction, the communications professionals also need to learn to share their knowledge, achievements and opinions to public.
I discovered we write dozens of academic business articles during our studies – just to throw them to trash can after receiving the credits. So why not encourage students to publish and share their papers in internet – I would assume that could have positive impact also on motivation and on the quality of the writings? Simultaneously, that would enable students to build their networks, get useful practice and face the challenges of getting their message across in the information-saturated social media. I believe this would be important to help students prepare themselves for the working life and to help them to be discovered in the job market.
Consequently, as my final work in Aalto University, I’m now doing research on personal branding, with a special focus on the value of knowledge sharing and interaction in social media. As I see this topic particularly relevant for communication professionals, I’ve included their perspective in the study, survey results already being published. In this project, I’ve had the pleasure to cooperate with the extremely professional people in ProCom, not only the CEO Elina Melgin but also Eveliina Linna and Minna-Liisa Nurmilaakso – I want to thank you for your interest towards the research and for your helpful ideas and support. I also want to thank personal branding coach (ACC) Johanna Tuutti and my thesis supervisor Kirsi Eräranta for the valuable guidance in this project – though the journey still continues. As the very final step of this project, I’m now continuing my research on the social media behavior of the most appreciated influencers among the communication professionals in Finland, Ville Tolvanen and Katleena Kortesuo – I’m thankful for their acceptance to be part of my research. This process has already been an eye-opening learning experience for me and I’m looking forward to new opportunities in which to use all the acquired new knowledge and to learn more.