Jennifer Austin is in uncharted territory. For the first time in her career, she holds a position that doesn’t have “communications” or “marketing” in the title.
Not that she’s complaining. She now has her dream job: Executive Director-Operations of an international non-governmental organization.
But by no means has she forgotten her roots. She says that a lifetime of work in communications and marketing has been essential in preparing her for the executive position, which she recently took on with International Alliance of Dermatology Patient Organizations.
“I am using the skills and experience I have gained through past communications jobs all the time,” says Jennifer. “I personally believe that the best organizational leaders are consummate communicators.”
What advice would she give to communicators hoping to one day make the leap into the executive’s chair?
“Build your resume beyond your day-to-day job responsibilities,” she says.
“I have spent a lot of time seeking out assignments, committee work, cross-functional team projects, training and other opportunities to develop skills outside my communications comfort zone such as finance, human resources, and project management.”
She’d also strongly recommend joining IABC.
“I can’t stress enough that, more often than not, career advancement is about being in the right place at the right time and meeting the right people ─ in this case others in your profession at an IABC event,” she says.
She recalls meeting Sharon Cheung (IABC Ottawa’s current co-VP of Professional Development) at an IABC event. A short time later Jennifer, who was the Director of Marketing and Communications for 4-H Canada at the time, hired her for a communications role.
Jennifer first learned about IABC during her work in high tech. When she moved into the not-for-profit world she found herself as the only communications professional in her organization.
“This brought to light the importance I place on being able to connect with people who work in my professional field,” she says. “For me, IABC is akin to having a professional network and a place to be mentored and gain skills.”
Since then she’s remained a member, finding value in using IABC Ottawa to connect with others and learn from them.
“Ottawa is a very small town when it comes down to it so I really rely on this network to hear about best practices, learn of new career opportunities and for hiring new people for my team,” she says.
This has also helped her find her footing in her role as executive director of IADPO (also known as GlobalSkin), an organization devoted to helping people living with dermatological diseases and skin traumas. She’s currently focused on establishing a value proposition, recruiting members and building brand and awareness for the organization, which she describes as “young and growing”.
And her communications skills – honed over the years through her involvement with IABC – continue to help.
Communication “is such an integral part of what I do ─ whether it’s building our online presence for an international audience or meeting with industry partners to pitch them on collaboration,” she says.
Click here to learn more about the benefits of joining IABC.