Patricia Zhou had vaguely heard of IABC during her first two years at SFU, studying Economics and then Communication. Little did she know that her upcoming involvement with BC’s chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators would have such an on-going influence on her career. Patricia first engaged with IABC through their Student Communicator of the Year Award (SCOY). In 2012, at the encouragement of her Co-op Coordinator, she submitted to the competition her communication plan, which dealt with the transformation of Communiqué from a floundering print newsletter into the popular online blog it is today. She was awarded the SCOY title for her success!
Reflecting on this experience now, Patricia explains how, “in school you complete a lot of theory work, it’s very critical, and you write a lot of papers. But SCOY requires you to implement your communication plan. So you do the research, put a plan into action, and examine the results. It’s a very strategic process.” She says, “It made me I realize that I enjoy this kind of work. Then, winning the award validated the idea that hey, maybe I’m good at Communications. I had no idea! A school mark is one thing, but real-life application is an altogether different one.”
This realization inspired in Patricia a passion for applied communication skills, a passion that would manifest itself in many different ways as her exciting career path began to unfold. Upon graduating, Patricia’s volunteer work with the Vancouver Board of Trade led her to be hired in their Events Department. Here she relished in the communications aspects of the role – doing research and writing invitations to speakers ranging from CEOs to MLAs and political leaders – and was subsequently hired as their Events and Sponsorship Assistant. Now working full-time as the West Coast Coordinator of Dermalogica Canada, Patricia describes how volunteer work continues to be a big part of her life – the most significant of which is her continued contribution to IABC/BC. After graduating Patricia served as the Event Manager for IABC/BC’s Bronze Quill Awards Gala, and just this past summer she stepped up into the role of their Director of Student Services.
Entering this leadership position was a natural development of Patricia’s specific passions within the organization. She feels that undergraduates are in an important stage of figuring out where they want to go professionally, and the opportunities IABC provides can help get them there. She explains there is a multitude of IABC programs geared toward benefiting students, such as speed mentoring sessions, an intimate mentorship service that matches students with working communicators for several months, and regular panel events that feature IABC speakers from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds. “You get to network with so many people, and it’s incredibly supportive,” says Patricia of attending these events, “I find the IABC crowd very welcoming – it’s so easy to talk to people. Here I’m not afraid to be vulnerable if I want to ask ‘hey, I have this problem, can you help me with it?’” Furthermore, IABC provides a variety of volunteer opportunities for students who want to contribute, and actively caters to what they are looking to get out of their volunteer experiences in terms of skills and responsibilities.
While setting aside time for networking, attending conference events, and volunteering can prove tricky for busy students, Patricia wants Communiqué’s readers to know that her success story has depended upon it. “I figured out in university through trial and error how to organize a schedule and decide on my priorities,” says Patricia. “Volunteering is fulfilling, and the network you get from it is unbelievable.” In her parting advice to undergrads wondering where they’ll go after convocation, Patricia encourages students to not just study, but also volunteer, meet people, and ask questions, as they look towards their future.
Want to connect with the hundreds of industry professionals associated with IABC/BC? For individuals who join before graduation, the cost of student membership is significantly reduced from a regular membership. Just want to test it out? Your student status can get you a reduced ticket for an upcoming event as well.