Is it your new year’s resolution to take your internal communications career to the next level in 2020? Whether you’re a communications generalist looking to specialize in internal comms, or you’ve already made the decision to focus on internal comms and want to become a leader in this area, it’s good to have a plan of attack in place so you can land your dream job this year.
The good news is, internal communications is being increasingly valued by organizations of all shapes and sizes. A decade or so ago it was often treated as the poor cousin of external communications, and even as an afterthought in many companies, with internal communications staff struggling to get a seat at the table when making decisions about major communications initiatives.
With a shift in attitude in many organizations, employee communications even has its own portfolio of responsibility and no longer sits under the general communications umbrella along with media relations, social media and stakeholder relations. More and more, companies are looking for leaders in the internal communications space and are appointing directors of internal or employee communications who have their own teams.
Making the jump to this level in your career can be challenging: there are more candidates than there are positions at this level of seniority. Corporate communications jobs in general have been more competitive over the past few years as many lay-offs in the allied industries of journalism and media have seen the recently retrenched seek a career change in the corporate comms world.
Recruiters looking for an internal communications director are seeking someone who understands internal communications thoroughly, can exercise initiative to achieve outstanding results, is creative and has solid problem-solving skills, can exert influence and demonstrate thought leadership to senior management, and who can lead and direct team members to perform at their peak.
These are some of the most important things to consider in your corporate communications career path if you want to reach for a promotion this year:
1. Update and review your resume
Of course this is a no-brainer for anyone looking for a new job… you should always apply for jobs with an up-to-date resume.
But if you’re looking to go to the next level in your internal communication career, you should critically review and re-evaluate your resume to ensure that your internal communications experience is showcased, particularly if you have worked in more generalist communications roles in the past where internal comms has been one of many areas of focus in your job.
Make sure you highlight all the key achievements in the internal communications space, including results of campaigns and improvements you have brought about in your communications manager career.
2. Invest in further training and development
You’re never too old to learn new things. In fact, recruiters look favorably upon those who continue their learning and development throughout their careers. Investing in training and development is an investment in yourself and your future career. You can expand on your existing skill-sets with new ones, and also ensure you’re up-to-date with the latest industry trends.
Further training that could make you stand out from the rest of the pack when it comes to landing that next job could include taking long or short course in stakeholder relations or community engagement, learning how to use specific software packages, gaining an additional qualification in management and leadership, or even people-based disciplines such as human resources or psychology which could compliment your internal communications manager skills.
In addition to formalised qualifications, staying up-to-date with industry trends and innovative new practices can help to set you apart from the competition.
3. Go above and beyond in your current role
Recruiters will look for someone who can demonstrate thought leadership and problem solving skills and an ongoing commitment to improvement and quality.
Instead of just sticking to your current job description, identify internal communication challenges and think outside the box for ways to improve them.
For example, if your internal communications are not getting the reach and information isn’t being retained, consider implementing new tools to assist such as DeskAlerts where you can send notifications to employee desktops and be guaranteed of a 100% open rate. You can use the metrics with DeskAlerts and also surveys, polls and quizzes to gather statistics to show information has been retained and outcomes have improved. This can be used as an example of your ability to lead, solve problems and influence change when you are applying for new roles.
Wherever possible, always over-deliver on your KPIs. Having stakeholders who can vouch for your performance is a great asset when you are looking for a promotion. If you get amazing results, people will be more than happy to sing your praises.
4. Find a mentor
A mentor is a peer who can help to guide and shape your career by offering their valuable knowledge and experience. You can opt for a formalized mentorship progam, or even make an informal arrangement with someone you trust, admire and respect.
You can find a mentor in a number of places: from within your organization, they might be a former boss, someone from your extended professional network, or a member of a professional association you also belong to. Your mentor doesn’t even necessarily have to be a senior leader in communications: they can be from another industry entirely with a sound understanding of, and experience in, obtaining high level positions and can help you work towards your career goals.
5. Join a professional association
Joining a professional industry association will help to give you a competitive advantage as it will demonstrate to future employers that you are an engaged and active member of the internal communications profession, striving for excellence and invested in being informed and helping to shape the direction of the profession.
Not only is a professional association a great source of knowledge keeping up with new trends, technological advances, legislation and so on that can affect internal communicators, they often provide lots of short courses and networking events that can help you to get inspiration to improve internal communications in your current and future roles.
Networking opportunities are also important for finding out about new jobs… sometimes positions are never advertised and word of mouth is everything. Getting to know leaders in your industry and positioning yourself as a peer might lead towards a new, unexpected, opportunity.