Forging her own path in the world of political communications

7 May 2021

The world of political communications can be chaotic and hard to navigate, but the skills Master of Communication graduate Ana Vujanic learnt at university gave her the confidence she needed to forge her own path.

Ana Vujanic is a recent graduate of the UQ Master of Communication (Strategic Communication) who has used the skills she developed at university to thrive in the fast-paced and exciting world of political communication. She now works in Canberra as the Communications Adviser to Minister Tara Cheyne in the ACT Legislative Assembly.

To learn more about her career in political communications, the School sat down with Ana to chat about her studies and how they helped her succeed in the field. 

Ana's start at UQ

Ana first started her journey at UQ as an undergraduate political science student. She had a brief taste of politics after interning at Queensland Parliament in her last semester at university but wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after graduating.

“After graduating, I took a gap year since I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my degree. When I came home, I thought about going back to university, but it intimidated me to return to being a student. However, I had this long-held desire to be a journalist, so I decided to do something different and enrolled in a Master of Communication at UQ."

Ana says it’s important to go into study with an open mind.

“Going in with an open mind is important because when I started my program, I was pretty sure I wanted to be a journalist and now I’m working in political communications."

"The Master of Communication is such a flexible degree – you don’t know where you’re going to end up and that’s probably one of the most exciting parts about it.”

Overcoming imposter syndrome

Like many university students, Ana experienced imposter syndrome when it came to putting her hand up for opportunities. She recalls how Dr Richard Murray helped her start getting involved in industry activities. 

“I was a member of the journalism group JacDigital and through that I met some amazing students and fantastic staff – particularly Dr Richard Murray and Professor Peter Greste. They ran the ABC Pitch, and that’s what really helped me kickstart my career.”

"Dr Murray actually took one of my JacDigital stories and entered it into the ABC Pitch competition. He and Professor Greste mentored me through the process, and I ended up having my story published and broadcast with ABC News. That was a huge accomplishment to achieve in my first semester; it gave me the confidence to continue doing what I was doing and seek out more internship opportunities.”

Ana working on a story during an internship with the ABC

Access to research opportunities

Ana says studying her Master of Communication gave her access to staff that supported and mentored her throughout her study. She wrote her master’s thesis under the supervision of Dr Murray, examining the effect political and economic challenges are exerting on the editorial independence and continuation of the ABC.

“Researching and writing the thesis was an incredibly tiring, challenging, but ultimately rewarding experience. Dr Murray and I knew from day one that this wasn’t going to be a project just to pass a course – we knew it was going to be published.”

Ana’s research, The future of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Australia’s ‘chilling’ mediascape will be published with Australian Journalism Review in July 2021.

Ana pitching her news story in front of a panel of judges for the ABC Pitch program.

Going regional for work

Ana knew that a large part of becoming successful as a journalist was gaining work experience and interned with the ABC, Brisbane Times, 4ZZZ, and Red Havas. However, she knew the logical next step was to look for internships in regional journalism. With the help of the UQ Employability Grant, she was able to undertake an internship at the ABC Far North newsroom in Cairns.

Attending a media event with Ash Barty during the ABC Far North newsroom internship.

“I interned in Cairns for two weeks, and it was the best experience because that newsroom isn’t used to having students, let alone from Brisbane. They gave me so much freedom. I worked with both the reporting team and the radio team, and they actively involved me in producing stories and sending me out solo to press conferences. It was an unreal experience – you wouldn’t get the chance to do those things in a metro newsroom.”

Making the move into political communications

The switch from journalism to political communications came naturally to Ana as she believed her current role perfectly combined both her Bachelor of Arts (Political Science) with her Master of Communication.

“I’m now a Communications Advisor for the ACT Government. I work in the Government Communications Unit but specifically for Minister Tara Cheyne. She actually studied journalism at UQ too.”

Ana in front of her workplace at the ACT Legislative Assembly.

Ana's role is extremely important and one she describes as equally challenging as it is fulfilling. 

"In this role, I help in dealing with all aspects of media. I talk with our policy advisers, communications advisers, and government departments, dealing with both proactive and reactive communication. A huge part of the job is also working with journalists – I’m either pitching them stories or responding to inquiries for their stories.”

Visiting Parliament House on her day off.

“One thing I love about my job is that my team understands that the media field is evolving rapidly, and we’re really embracing digital communications. I don’t just do what a traditional communications adviser does; I also go out and shoot and film footage, cut together videos, make social graphics – all kinds of interesting and fun stuff.”

Opportunities at UQ 

If you’re a communications student in your final semester and uncertain about continuing your studies, Ana recommends searching for opportunities offered by UQ such as volunteering with JacDigital and applying for the UQ Employability Grant.

“I think being proactive is important because it can be hard to get an internship as a student. It’s also a tough job market and employers value graduates with experience, so you really need to put yourself out there.”

Without her postgraduate studies in communication, Ana says she never would have found herself in her current position. The program equipped her with the edge she needed to push through and thrive in the political communications field.

Filming a piece for her Brisbane ABC News internship.

Advice to students

Her final piece of advice is a call out to all those who suffer from imposter syndrome.

“I think a lot of life is faking it until you make it. I wasn’t really confident as a student, and I’m lucky that I had lecturers who kept telling me to be confident in my place."

"When I got this job, there was a little bit of that imposter syndrome and I was thinking, I’m not qualified enough to be here, but I just got on with the role. If I got confused, I asked for help but it was kind of just putting a smile on my face, nodding along, and trying my best to keep my head above water.”

It’s clear that Ana has an exciting career ahead of her in the world of political communications. The School wishes her well in her future endeavours and students considering a similar career path should heed her advice and feel confident forging their own way in the media industry.

Ana interning with radio community station 4ZZZ

Written by: Dianne Mai