Written by Andrew Harvey, UK Executive Director at VMAGROUP
When recruiting for a role, employers now place greater importance on candidates’ skills, attitude and aptitude. From our Inside Insight studies, we know that over 80 per cent of IC professionals believe IC experience in the same industry is not required when recruiting for a role within their organisation.
Notably, we have also seen an uplift in employers from the banking and financial services and professional services sectors relaxing the requirement for experience in those sectors and instead, where appropriate, looking for candidates with global experience or who have managed communications for non-office-based workforces.
A role requiring many skills
The role of the IC professional has become more multi-faceted. The same IC study found the top 10 most important skills and competencies for an IC practitioner in 2018 included communications planning, ability to measure outputs and sound business judgement.
For any practitioner looking for their next IC role, be open to broadening your horizons by working in a new sector – don’t be afraid of discovering something new.
Having said that, in our 2018 Inside Insight survey, we asked if people agreed or disagreed that a specialist qualification in internal communication would help them perform better in their role.
I was really surprised that only 42 per cent agreed, 23 per cent disagreed and 35 per cent were neutral. This suggests 58 per cent are at best indifferent to the value of professional IC qualifications. Are these IC professionals saying they don’t have anything to learn?
Top 10 most important skills/competencies for an IC professional, Inside Insight 2018
Effectively communicate change
The business world is operating in a state of constant transformation and this is driving the demand for change communications skills and experience. This is substantiated by the latest Inside Insight survey, which indicates that change communications is the third most important skill for an IC professional.
We are also seeing more job titles changing to encompass both “change” and “communications” to reflect the broader remit and range of skills needed by organisations.
In the interim market, 45 per cent of IC teams are supported by at least one IC interim and 80 per cent of those contracts are driven by the need to communicate change (up from 60 per cent in last year’s survey) and its impact on people, systems and technology.
Understand how to engage digitally
We have seen first-hand more organisations moving to a more agile working environment, which is usually tied into digitalising the organisation. This could mean having the right tools to enable remote working or having digital-enabled channels.
Consequently, digitally savvy practitioners with extensive channel knowledge are highly sought after.
Particularly, as we have seen over the past three Inside Insight studies, a significant 70 per cent of respondents still rate their organisations’ use of digital and social as “poor” or “average”. Also, over 90 per cent of IC professionals still use traditional channels, such as email and intranet, to communicate to internal stakeholders.
Employers will generally interview four to six candidates for a permanent role, so by having digital channel knowledge you may have an advantage. Invest in yourself and your own professional development to upskill if necessary.
Have a career plan
Of course, building your digital expertise is not the only ways to get ahead in your IC career. Most people think about their next job when they stop enjoying their current job or when they want a pay rise, but can’t get one internally.
This suggests most of the IC people I meet are not thinking or planning beyond the next job or 12 months. I advise people to ask themselves the questions: what do I want to be doing in five, 10 or 15 years’ time? Do I want to be a director of IC, working in a global business, or operating as an independent consultant?
Once you know what you want to achieve 10 years from now, you can start to plan your career over the next decade. To achieve your ambition, work out what the gaps are and what you need to do.
Some people might say a career plan is old hat, but in my experience it can make a positive difference.
Andrew Harvey presents findings from the 2018 Inside Insight survey at an IoIC South West regional meeting, April 2018
Speak to people
Make sure you network at least once a quarter. We all run busy lives, and for some people, fitting in networking can be hard to do, or even a scary experience.
However, I believe it can deliver massive benefits, both in terms of knowledge and learning and future career opportunities. Make an effort once a quarter to attend an IC or general comms networking event and make sure you force yourself to speak to as many people and possible.
Also, follow up with great people you meet and perhaps arrange to meet again over a more informal coffee.
If you can’t find any events to attend, consider contacting someone on LinkedIn that does a similar role and ask if they might be interested in meeting to share experiences. Although daunting for some – I believe most people will get a positive response. Most IC professionals I know would say yes to an approach of that nature.
Role play your interview technique
Prepare thoroughly for any interviews you attend. Don’t go to an interview to practise – practise at home, or with a colleague, friend or recruitment consultant.
Often people fail to get offered a job because of their interview performance and not because they don’t have the experience.
A lot of people fail to give clear, confident, concise and applicable answers, because they haven’t prepared properly. So many people make the mistake of thinking, “I’ve got the experience for this, I’m the perfect fit.” What they forget is the company will be interviewing another four or five people that also have the perfect experience.
How you communicate your experience in an interview is key.
Andrew Harvey is executive director at VMAGROUP, a leading international search and selection specialist for corporate communications, marketing and digital, and one of the largest corporate communications recruitment practices in the UK. To have a discussion with one of the consultants regarding recruitment for a permanent or interim role or job opportunities, please contact us.