I’ve often thought about a claim made by Malaysian public relations academic Kiranjit Kaur (2014), who suggested the field of public relations is a practice and not a profession. The reason for this, according to Kaur, is because unlike professions such as accounting or law, public relations doesn’t yet seem to have an industry governing body – an association that licences practitioners, legally binds them to ethical codes, and provides disciplinary action.
This is partly true. Communications practitioners don’t require a licence to perform their jobs, so they are really only accountable to the organisation that employs them. But just because Australian public relations is structured this way, it hasn’t stopped various associations from influencing the field. The two most prominent of these in Australia are PRIA (Public Relations Institute of Australia), and IABC (International Association of Business Communicators).
I recently became a member of the Australian chapter of IABC. My membership came as a result of countless coffees with a friend and fellow practitioner, who persuaded me to apply. A few months later, I can honestly say it was one of the most valuable decisions I have made for my career. In this article, I’m going to give you four great reasons why you should become an IABC member.
1. Open doors
You may be surprised to know that to land your first job in public relations, you’re going to need experience. In almost every job listing I’ve seen in the last year, a University degree alone just doesn’t cut it. Take a look at these recent position requirements from LinkedIn Jobs:
Get some experience, fast! The best time to get work experience is while you’re still a student, and being part of a network like IABC will help you find leads on new work experience positions. Attending IABC events will also help build your professional network, which may mean increased job opportunities further down the road. Join IABC and open doors.
2. Be proactive
We hear a lot in the Australian news about the major oversupply of University graduates to the workforce, who complete their degrees and then struggle to find employment. While this does happen to some, it can be totally avoided by taking the right steps.
I think employers are increasingly looking for graduates who are proactive in their vocation. That is, they want people who are actively taking steps to better themselves, grow their network, and build their skills, rather than just passively ambling through University.
Listing yourself as an IABC member on your CV will show employers you’re active in your industry, even if you’re yet to land a position. It shows you’ve taken that extra step to be involved, and that looks really good.
3. Learn from others
IABC events are a place of learning. Whether it’s listening to a panel discussion, or speaking with an industry professional, you’re always bound to come out with a huge gain in knowledge. At the last event I attended, Tales of Triumph: The First Five Years, I spoke to a Communications Coordinator at ANZ Banking Group, who told me how she landed her job. Her insight and advice inspired me to apply for a lot of positions I initially would have overlooked.
The panel discussions are always helpful, especially to students and younger professionals. What also surprised me was the high standard of industry professionals who attend the events. You’ll get to learn from senior-level advisers who hail from both agency and in-house PR roles.
The knowledge learnt here is not like the theory you learn at University. This is practical, useful, vital knowledge straight from industry.
4. Great food and drink
If all the above points haven’t convinced you enough, what could be better than complimentary wine and cheese and a mid-week cocktail atmosphere?
At every IABC Victoria event I’ve attended, the food and drink has been exceptionally good. If you’re unsure about joining as a member, my advice is to buy a non-member ticket to their next event. Even if you decide it’s not your thing, you’re sure to come out in good spirits, with a few LinkedIn requests and a new love for cheese and antipasto.
Kaur, K. (2014). Social media creating digital environmental publics: Case of Lynas Malaysia. Public Relations Review, 41(2), pp.311-314.