If you want to take control of your career, get ahead of the game and network with experienced professional communicators, look no further than leadership in professional associations.
From an early career perspective, professional associations such as IABC help bridge the gap between academia and professional life, enabling a smooth transition through leadership opportunities, mentorship and relationship-building. In the interest of career development, professional associations are also a great tuning-in mechanism to help you gain visibility on the latest insights, events and happenings in your industry.
Volunteer leadership in professional associations give you the necessary edge to stand apart from other candidates, even before you graduate from your university program or actively seek a full-time entry-level position.
These opportunities can strengthen your preparedness for future leadership roles in the workplace, especially when your reputational mantle is supported or formally endorsed by other high-profile names in your industry. Leadership is not just a tick on a box — it's an investment for your career. When it comes time to pass the torch to a successor, you’ll find yourself helping the next generation too. Like a positive feedback loop, you get what you give, and it’s a wondrous feeling.
As job markets become more competitive and technology-driven, it's also wise to differentiate early. Professional associations such as IABC are a strong and lasting enabler of helping students and early career professionals develop their differentiation. For instance, by tapping into relevant industry insights and connecting with other professionals through member platforms and services like IABC Academy and IABC’s The Hub. One neat practice I’ve found particularly helpful is to be proactive and intentional with your time, which helps facilitate an always-on, practitioner-first mentality. This means reading up on the latest industry news, thinking about why things are happening and mapping out your next move with the information you learn — because as we know, failing to plan is planning to fail.
In the spirit of continuous learning and betterment, I joined IABC as a student in 2020, after learning about it through my local chapter, IABC Toronto. Jodie Lack, co-contributor to this article, joined as a student in 2022, through the introduction of seasoned communication leader, expert and award-winning lecturer Ross Monaghan.
The opportunities in our field are wide and vast, and IABC’s global standard of excellence inspires us to raise our own bars in our work, in both an individual and collective capacity.
Remember: With any association membership, you get out what you put in, and the fruits of your labor aren't grown overnight. There is no silver bullet, but early career professionals and students who are intentional with their efforts will inevitably reap the reward.
Start early and get involved! Keep up with the IABC Early Career/Student Shared Interest Group (SIG) and mark your calendars for upcoming events.
Jacob R. Robinson and Jodie Lack
Jacob R. Robinson (he/him), PRINCE2, CAPM, CSPO, is an early career communication professional, business communication consultant, podcaster and Kaizen practitioner. An IABC member since 2020, Robinson is an avid problem-solver and integrator of lessons. He loves to elevate the teams and organizations he is a part of. He currently works for APEX Public Relations, a multi-award-winning full-service agency in Toronto, Canada.
Robinson presently serves as the team captain of IABC's Student/Early Career Shared Interest Group and was named a #WeLeadComms honoree in 2023 for his contributions to the profession.
Jodie Lack (she/her) is a bachelor of communications in public relations student at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. Lack has an eager and passionate outlook in areas of B-Corporation, social enterprise, not-for-profit and government. With one year of industry experience, Lack’s skills are highly developed in media relations, writing, social media, website design and event management. Her ability to effectively manage time, work with deadlines and take on leadership roles has been demonstrated in current and previous roles. Lack presently serves as the programming director of IABC's Student/Early Career Shared Interest Group.