Gabriella Taekema sees professional organizations as a stepping stone to launch a communications career.

Currently working as a student communications officer with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Taekema first heard of IABC during her freshman year at Carleton University. A former communications and media student recommended getting involved and she has now been an IABC member for two years. She has taken what she learned from IABC to the private, nonprofit and public sectors, and as the president of the Carleton PR Society.

Taekema sees many benefits in joining IABC as a student. “I think it’s important for clubs and universities to stress that there are opportunities outside of campus too. I always encourage my members to get involved with organizations like IABC because connections from IABC can become your mentors for the rest of your career.”

Building a community

Taekema describes the Ottawa chapter of IABC as a close-knit community. At every IABC event, student members network with communications professionals and form relationships with them.

“I keep renewing my membership because IABC has a community that I genuinely feel part of,” says Taekema. “Not only do I get to learn from fantastic communicators, but I get to journey with others through their career and experience genuine friendship as we all evolve as communicators.

Students receive discounts to all IABC events, and Takema has taken advantage of this benefit. From expert panels to small events, she is committed to meeting experienced communication professionals. She sees these events as both a learning and a networking opportunity. On top of that, she takes part in Special Interest Groups (SIGs), which are smaller, more intimate events with her fellow IABC members.

Volunteering

Taekema has been building her resume with the IABC volunteering program.

“I started volunteering with IABC after meeting a former IABC volunteer for coffee,” Taekema recalls. “I was talking to her about how to jumpstart my communications career, and she recommended volunteering with IABC.”

As a member of IABC Ottawa’s professional development team, the benefits of volunteering are clear for her. She mentions growing her network, learning new, tactical skills and connecting with her peers.

Learning resources

University is not the only place where learning takes place. Taekema tunes into online member resources like webinars and the Voice podcast. Plus, she sees IABC events as a chance to learn from some of Ottawa’s most experienced communications pros.

Taekema recently attended a panel discussion on communicating contentious issues. “My key takeaways were: always prep your crisis comms plan and get your message out fast and effectively to demonstrate that your organization is on top of the crisis.”

Taekema plans to stay with IABC as her career advances. “One thing I love about IABC is that it has resources for communicators in all stages of their career. And one day I’m going to make it into one of those senior communicator events,” she says, referring to special events for leaders in Ottawa’s communications community.

Her advice for students is simple. Get involved. “Everyone says school flies by. This is one more reason to start growing your network now. And through volunteering, students are able to apply the theories learned in class and have hands-on experience that enriches your education and work experience.”

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