10 lessons from my first year at Cognito
In the summer of 2016 I joined Cognito on the London Graduate Programme. Now a permanent employee and fully immersed into agency life, here are some lessons in financial communications that I’ve learnt along the way…..
1. Read, watch, listen!
To understand your clients, you first need to understand the world they live in. The financial world can change quickly and unexpectedly, so it’s important to find news sources that work well for you to stay ahead. This can include following journalists and industry influencers on Twitter, listening to the Today Programme on your way to work, or even watching The Economist’s Snapchat story.
2. It’s impossible to know everything
So you’re not an expert in regulation, investment bonds, stock exchanges or crypto-currency. Don’t stress. It takes time to understand the many sectors of this expansive industry, and even with time it’s impossible to know everything. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been working for one month or 30 years, everyone is still learning. So always keep your notepad nearby and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
3. Different clients, different rules
Agency clients vary, therefore the way you need to work on each account will as well. No two clients are the same which means your day is filled with varied tasks and differing daily expectations. It’s important to understand your clients’ (and colleagues’) working styles so you can adapt to their individual needs and meet their requirements.
4. Confidence is key
Pitching a journalist or meeting your client for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience. Do your research, rehearse what you’re going to say and take note of how your colleagues handle similar situations. Take a deep breath, speak with a smile and present yourself with confidence.
5. …..So what?
Before sending a client an update or sharing information with colleagues, always question what they will gain from it. Always consider the “…so what?” factor. Thinking critically and analytically is a key part of consultancy, so ask yourself what is significant about your findings and look to add value wherever possible.
6. Find your voice
Colleagues are always impressed when you can tell them something they didn’t already know, so sharing a quick stat or piece of news with the team, or learning your way around a new tool or platform is a great way to be heard. Look for an area that can become your specialism and make yourself an invaluable asset for both the company and the client.
7. Make mistakes, then learn from them
It’s OK to make mistakes. Whatever you did wrong, it’s very likely that it can be corrected with the help of your colleagues and/or the clients. Don’t dwell on it for long periods of time, look for a solution and learn how to go about it better the next time…. There’s always a steep learning curve in the first year of any profession!
8. If only I had more time!
Agency life gives a whole new meaning to the words ‘time management’. One of the biggest lessons so far has been learning to efficiently manage my time and other people’s expectations. With several clients and tasks to work on each day, organisation is the key to meeting deadlines both internally and externally. Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues for help to ensure the work delivered on time to the client. Working within teams is key to agency life.
9. Bright lights, big cities
Here at Cognito, we are based in some of the best cities on Earth. London, New York, Los Angeles, Singapore…. We’re surrounded by global businesses and have a fantastic opportunity to leverage learnings between each of our offices. Sharing cultural insights that may apply to different international audiences across each of these financial and cosmopolitan hubs is key to achieving good results for your clients.
10. It takes time
You might want to take the financial world by storm, but it’s unlikely that you’ll become a superstar overnight. Experience and success come with time. It can be frustrating when you’re eager to progress but still have a lot to learn. Be patient, stay curious, and always have your mug filled with coffee. That piece of front page coverage might be just around the corner…..