By Alba Pérez Grandi
On 8 December, The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Belgian Chapter and Brussels School IHECS teamed up to organise a dynamic and interactive speed mentoring event for IHECS public relations (PR) students. The event aimed to help young people who are in the process of finalising their graduate programme, and starting to look for a traineeship or a first job, and are seeking for advice on their future career path.
The one-hour dynamic speed mentoring session, which was held at IHECS for about thirty students and was facilitated by twenty communications experts, resulted in a very successful and a valuable experience for students. It was also an opportunity for organisations to attract fresh communications talents and to network with other communicators in Brussels.
Pierre de Villers, President of the Master’s in Public Relations at Brussels School Ihecs, resumed ‘in french’ (the language the program is taught) the speed mentoring evening: “À l’écoute de professionnels de valeur, nos futurs diplômés bénéficient d’une opportunité unique d’opérer un retour sur leur jeune expérience et de mettre en perspective leur potentiel. Nous sommes reconnaissants à l’IABC pour cette fructueuse coopération (listening to the experienced professionals, our future graduates benefit from a unique opportunity to take a look at their young experience and put their potential into perspective. We are grateful to the IABC for this fruitful cooperation) “
Elise Guillet, VMA Group Senior Consultant described the event as “a fantastic opportunity for students to talk to professionals. Thanks to the IABC and VMA Group’s networks, we had all arrays of industries and organisations represented: public and private sector, associations, communications agencies. It’s important to show them the variety of roles that exist out there! Even jobs they would not have thought of.”
Hope for the future
All students have one thing in common: they question themselves on the realities of the PR profession and are motivated to exchange views and receive advice and mentoring from communications professionals.
The evening started with an opening roundtable session focusing on the evolution of the competences, the jobs in PR and the increasing demand of experts in digital communications and social media. The panel was composed by two key communicators: Christophe Ginisty, Head of Digital Benelux Ketchum and Aurelie Valtat, Head of Digital & Multimedia at Europe Aid, a communications recruitment consultant; Elise Guillet, VMA Group Senior Consultant and Colin Henlsey, president of IABC Belgium, brought an enlightening presentation and Q&A session to the table.
Key tips and recommendations shared with the students:
- Be prepared to manage social networks within the EU institutions. You need to be operational immediately and you need to have a political sense. Getting a traineeship at the European Institutions can be the first step on your way to finding your first job. Young graduates can bring a “breath of fresh air” to the European project.
- Be curious, proactive and open.
- Build an online reputation through people’s perceptions. Take initiative and do it, be autonomous and learn by failing. Understand the public and management expectations. People in “T” shape vision: horizontal specialists reunite the qualities companies are looking for in future communicators.
- Understanding the digital environment is key. Social media tools and monitoring tools help to build a campaign or a communications strategy, but it is paramount to see the big picture.
- Focus on having a plan, be flexible and love what you do.
- Be authentic, showcase your personality, take care of your LinkedIn profile and use the networks. Work on your languages while you can, learn the business language, know that volunteer experiences are always appreciated.
“At VMA Group, we meet senior communications professionals every day to discuss their experience. My piece of advice for juniors entering the job-market will be to find a mentor, before finding a job. To pick well: follow your guts.”, explained Guillet.
The roundtable concluded with a presentation tour from the communications experts that volunteered to be the mentors during the evening.
Speed mentoring, a dynamic format that works
Speed mentoring is fundamentally a series of short sessions, conversations focusing on specific questions. This format allows for more velocity, accuracy and having a one-to-one interaction that will allow the mentor to guide the student by providing useful exchange of information, career advice and tools but without giving them the answer. The theme and questions are open and varied, according to the expertise of the communications professionals and the interest and questions of the students.
Groups of two to three students had the possibility to choose from the list of professionals shared in advance who they would like to meet. Each session lasted fifteen minutes. When signaled by the moderator’s bell, students rotated in groups of two and three and met four different communications professionals.
The speed mentoring concluded with a networking drink where students and communications experts mingled together and got to know each other a bit more, not only at an educational and professional level, but also at a personal level, creating new connections.
One of the mentors said, “I wish I had been offered this opportunity to talk with experienced professional from very various fields when I was still a student!”
“The expertise as a communications professional was very valuable for students who are seeking for advice on their future career path. We are very happy many committed professionals joined and volunteer one hour of their time for this one hour speed mentoring session” said Jorge Valero, Senior Reporter at EurActiv, EU Correspondent for el Economista.
The IABC Belgium slogan “Learn, Build, Connect” resonated well at the event that proved to share best in hand advice on the communications competences that are on demand in agencies and institutional and private sector environments, guiding students to build their career and connecting them to the IABC network.
Personally, being myself passionate and currently learning about the science of coaching, this experience was very nurturing – I enjoyed every minute of my time shared with students and hope I gave some light and inspiration in this transition and important phase of their lives.
A concrete example of my contribution to this mentoring evening was brought to the table by two students that came to see me after receiving the job advert of an internship vacancy in the company I work for, the European Business Summit. During our discussion, I felt their enthusiasm and strong motivation for this traineeship opportunity and hence I recommended them to apply sending their CV and a short motivation letter, bringing forward the skills and traits that are relevant to the role.
Following our verbal exchange, one of them has already taken the initiative and has been invited to an interview so potentially she would become a future colleague. This is just one example of the proactive attitude well mentioned by Aurelie Valtat during the roundtable discussion.
On behalf of the International Association of Business Communicators, we would like to heartily thank professionals who volunteered one hour of their time for this speed mentoring session and students for their fantastic involvement. There will be a second speed mentoring in October 2017, stay tuned!
About the author:
Alba is a passionate communications executive with six years of experience working across different industry sectors for corporations, European Institutions/ associations and agencies. She has served on the IABC Belgium Board as VP of Communications since 2013 and is also the 2016-17 EMENA Region board’s Director of Communication. Read more here.
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