As a communication community there is a lot of discussion around skills, expertise and professionalism. These are really important themes for us, especially now as we aim to raise the profile of internal communication (IC), and its value to organisations.
A number of people have asked me about improving their skills and moving their career forward in IC, so I thought I’d share some information and thoughts on how this can be achieved but on a budget.
Before I go any further, becoming a member of a professional would be the best place to start. I know there is a cost involved, but there is a lot of value to be gained when you are looking to develop your skills and experience. I talk about this more later, but it has definitely made a big difference to my career, practice and expertise.
Also, of note is the importance to understand the profession and what internal communication can achieve for organisations. It is a specialism and as such comes with a specific set of skills that we need to master in order to add value and advance in your career. I believe it is critical to an organisation’s success and at the moment a hugely under-valued discipline.
Attitude, and how you approach all this, is a factor too. If you enter into education and development with the mindset that it won’t achieve anything, then it won’t. Even if at the moment things aren’t working out, deciding to be positive about your career and what you are doing to build your experience and skills will shift your focus away from what’s not working. Basically, have a goal and take the time to be clear on where you want to go and what you need to do to get there.
- Identify your skill gap? It’s easier to progress if you know where you are going. Try to create some space to think through the areas where you need to develop. It’s easier to tackle this when you know what you’re looking for. Write down your current skills and review them against an IC competency framework (see link below). It will help to identify the gaps in your skills and where you need development.
- Ask for help, find a mentor: Most accomplished (experienced) practitioners, especially those in our community will happily share their experience if asked. The problem most of the time is our reluctance to be uncomfortable, admit that we don’t know something and ask for help. If you are serious about development – ask for help!
- Informational interviews: Find someone who is doing the job that you would like to have and check if they would give you 30 mins of their time so you can quiz them on how they got there. This might include sending good questions ahead of time for the discussion, but it’s a great way to build a relationship with someone who might in some way support your career.
- Read good content: From the many articles, to books on internal communication and understanding how business works can equip you with the information you need to approach your work with a greater level of expertise. Some good places to start include the AllThingsIC, PR Place, IC Kollectif or why not join CIPR Inside’s book club.
- Attend events and network: There are many low-cost of free events on various IC topics. Search them out and make sure you review what you will get out of it before you sign up. Identify what you want to learn and who you’d like to meet. When you do attend make sure you take notes, meet those connections and ask questions. Use LinkedIn to continue a conversation.
- Become a member of an industry body: Being a part of an industry body and getting involved in CPD and attending events is a great way to build your skills. Volunteering exposes you to so much and allows you to expand on your knowledge and experience, while meeting peers and colleagues. Of course I will always recommend CIPR and it’s internal communication group CIPR Inside, but other groups include IoIC and IABC.
- Look for internal opportunities: Within your current IC role there are usually opportunities to put yourself forward to get involved in a project or programme just to gain experience. Even if the role is bigger than what you’re currently doing, go for it anyway and be clear you would like to understudy someone or observe for development.
Although training can be expensive it is important to develop the specific skills required to be a professional IC practitioner. If it means taking it slow and saving for that specific course, then do it. If it’s best to use some of the methods mentioned above then go for that. Your development is your responsibility – it won’t happen unless you try.