Whether you’re just breaking into communications, or are still on the hunt for that elusive first role, building your comms career requires a solid plan. Who better to help you make one than experienced communications professionals who have been there? We talked to IABC/BC award winners about how they got to where they are, and the lessons they learned along the way. Here are their top tips.
1. Start with IABC/BC
When Christine Ackerley, Communications Officer at Provincial Health Services Authority, was completing her Master’s in Communications at Simon Fraser University, she volunteered on the IABC/BC board.
“I knew I needed to build skills, knowledge and a network,” said Ackerley. “IABC/BC was a vital part of all three. Ultimately, the connections and mentors I gained through IABC/BC helped me get my current job.”
From learning how to draft a communications plan to strengthening your event marketing chops, IABC has opportunities to suit your skill level and needs. IABC/BC has volunteer, mentoring, and sponsorship options which are great ways to get involved.
2. Get technical
“Develop an understanding of statistics and digital analytics. And, get familiar with diverse design software, web editing, and video tools. Even if you’re not an expert, you’ll be able to better work with designers and specialists,” Ackerley said.
While large organizations may have the time and budget to develop an entire digital strategy, to hire graphic designers and videographers, smaller ones may count on you to be the multimedia expert. Take courses, subscribe to tech blogs, attend talks on the latest tools and trends in communications. Check out IABC’s resource bank (searchable by topic) here.
3. Measure your progress
Good communicators know the importance of metrics in analyzing the success of a project. For Becky Potvin, Director of Communications and Marketing at UBC Library, tracking your own development requires the same level of attention.
“Write a list of the top three to five things you want to accomplish in your role – whether it’s building out a great team, leading an impactful project, developing new skills,” Potvin said. “This list is something you can look back on to gauge whether you’re on track.”
Set your own metrics for career advancement, and see how you measure up every few months.
4. Be flexible
Laurie Dawkins, Vice President, Communications & Stakeholder Engagement at Provincial Health Services Authority, has switched roles, specialties, and organizations numerous times. A key skill that all new communicators should build, in her opinion? Flexibility.
“Take contracts and term positions, lend a hand on every weird project that comes your way, and never get too set on what you imagine your role to be,” Dawkins said. “You never know what will excite or engage you, and what might lead to your next great thing – or else bring you clarity on what you never want to try again!”
Focus on the skills you’ll gain from every position – and when you see the opportunity to work on something that interests you, ask.
5. Learn and move on
Krystle Yeung, a Senior Communications Consultant at Fraser Health, shared an important lesson she learned in her career. “Making mistakes is inevitable. Whether you learn and improve from those mistakes is up to you,” she said. Accept that not every attempt is going to be perfect. Seek feedback and integrate it in your project planning process.
6. Take the leap; apply for an IABC Award!
Heather Prime is a Communications Leader at Vancouver Coastal Health, as well as a regular judge on the IABC Awards panel. Having picked up several IABC awards of her own over the years, she advises communicators to consider the award application process a valuable learning opportunity.
“Even if your submission doesn’t garner an award, you can use the judges’ expert feedback to refine your practices for your next project,” she said.
And if you do win?
“From my experience, winning an IABC award at any level helps to advance your work and career,” said Prime. “You earn recognition among your peers, but also at your workplace, which can translate into enhanced credibility, budgets and even pay.”
You’ve worked hard, so why not get something to show for it? Get started on your application today!