By Mai Al Khouri
I have realized that stepping out of my comfort zone, while maintaining pragmatism, is an essential component to working in communications. For me, it is important to be constantly aware of this, especially in Lebanon, where the economic, political, and social spheres are as tense as ever, with the added geopolitical stress. I believe that what we create and how it is communicated are more important now than ever, especially during this era where we distrust both media and corporations.
Nonetheless, the amount of technology and information at our disposal gives, us, the youth access to a seemingly unlimited world. Through this world, we can collaborate and come up with ideas not only within our communities but across the globe. Because we’re able to create a global village, this gives us the means to step out of our comfort zone. How? Through learning. We learn about the truth behind our circumstances and face one of two decisions: ignore or think big. But we want to think big!
Social media and general online communities has given us the wings to think big, bigger and bigger. Hence, we can help others and find solutions to the issues we face.
But I believe that as a result of the status quo, our generation is hell-bent on surviving. Whether through taking on freelance work or slaving through a corporate job they hate, it’s rare to find a millennial in a working and financial position that they are satisfied in. Therefore, to get to our ultimate goal in this profit-driven world, we have to step out of our comfort zones and find solutions. Without this drive, we are kept complacent and otherwise unable to understand ourselves and the circumstances around us. Moreover, without a specific amount of pragmatism, we cannot reach sound solutions, and thus no progress can be made.
What about the industry, what should we focus on? I think the industry needs to focus on these individuals, the ones that do not get the luxury to live the life they have always wanted to live. But also, I think the industry needs to focus on showing and guiding prospective employees within our generation and future generations on how to understand the drive for survival amongst the mass and yet dream limitlessly. In higher education, more often than not, we are limited to a specific group within an exclusive environment. Not all individuals in higher academia are privileged, but we must acknowledge that higher academia consists of elite groups of academics and content. Mainly, universities equip graduates with knowledge and information that is not publicly available.
But also we as individuals, it is vital to push ourselves to gain this empathy through exercises such as the assigned tasks and projects that I received throughout the internship. One cannot work without the other.
One particular task I had, was to work as a community manager for a client’s event; it was a drastic shift from the usual functions of the month as I got to see the work that goes on the ground versus in an office. This task, alongside other on-ground work, was an added value to the Leo Academy. I quickly learned that the primary way to learn is to be proactive, and there is no such thing as being too active. Any intern ever – no matter the industry- can benefit from learning by example, especially in communications companies where the work is varied continuously.
Overall, I find that both proactivity and the drive to understand human, through a less conventional corporate lens, are the key factors to enter the communications industry. We must be open to understanding others, open to thinking creatively, and free to have to weave these into a business setting. Business thinking isn’t a way to limit innovation in youth, but rather to find the most straightforward and impactful ways to speak to the public.
Mai was part of Leo Burnett Beirut Summer Internship. In its 8th edition this year, Leo Academy said that they train and build the next generation of communication experts. In this piece, she reflects on what she has learnt through her time at the academy.