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IoIC’s Foundation and Advanced Diplomas have completed for another year. We caught up with the two highest achievers to find out what they learned and how the courses have supported their careers.

Students from IoIC’s 2017 Advanced and Foundation Diploma intake are moving into a new phase of their careers, with greater confidence and a more rounded understanding of comms, management and business issues.
The Advanced or Foundation Diploma of Proficiency in Internal Communication is a nine-month course accredited by Southampton Solent University. It allows internal comms professionals to continue in their day jobs while learning the essential skills and knowledge to help them progress.
Like many people, Siobhan Biggane (left) fell into internal comms, but acknowledges “something about it draws you in”.
She believes hard skills such as writing develop over time, but she wanted to improve her confidence and stretch her knowledge of IC further.
“I felt that the bit that was letting me down was believing I had the authority to tell people, ‘I know this, I’m qualified.’ I wanted some gravitas behind the advice I give others,” says Siobhan.
Two years into her role as senior internal communications and engagement officer at Community Integrated Care, Siobhan applied to take IoIC’s Advanced Diploma course.
“When you think about professional development, it’s often for the benefit of where you work rather than yourself,” she says. “I wanted the opportunity to think differently, about how I’m going to be a better IC practitioner – though the two are intrinsically linked. What benefits me benefits the company.”
“If the IoIC thinks I’m doing it right, I must be”

Siobhan didn’t look beyond the Institute to build her expertise. “IoIC is the main body in my sector – almost like a regulator – for best practice and raising the profile and standards of internal comms. I figured, if the IoIC thinks I’m doing it right, I must be. And the qualification from a university gives it kudos and authenticity – it’s not just a certificate from a course.”
Like Siobhan, Rob Leaney (right) had worked in various roles in and around the comms industry – in marketing and customer comms – and the IoIC course was an opportunity to build on the experience he’d gained in his first IC role.
“I had things I wanted to learn to be able to do the job better and make IC the focus for my career,” says Rob, who is internal communications and engagement specialist for pet charity Blue Cross. “I’d zigzagged a bit within comms, but I’ve narrowed my specialism down into an area that piqued my interest, especially around engagement. Internal comms feels more tangible than, say, marketing. I can actually meet the people I’m communicating with. I know their names. It feels more real.”
While Rob was looking to build his expertise, the head of his department, Sameer Pathak was keen that all his team became IoIC members and gained a qualification, so Rob signed up for the Foundation Diploma.
“It’s valuable to have the backing of your employer and to know that they want to invest in your development,” says Rob.

Commitment is key
Rob and Siobhan’s nine-month courses started in January, and required them to put together a personal portfolio and complete a project (a group project in the Advanced Diploma, and an individual project for the Foundation Diploma) before a panel interview and exam as the final assessment. Both completed their courses as the highest achievers in their respective Diploma group.
Siobhan says the course requires you to be committed at every stage. “It will show you up if not. You can’t pull the wool over people’s eyes. It does take up some of your personal time, but it felt so worthwhile and beneficial that I didn’t really notice it.
“But when it comes to reviewing your portfolio and talking about your career, you’ve already done most of the work – you’re just describing it. You have to remember this is making you better at your job. If you have ambitions to improve, it’s supportive of where you want to be.”
A personal checking system
Rob reflects that putting together his portfolio allowed him to look at where he was in terms of his knowledge and skills
“You have to put your critical thinking hat on. It’s an opportunity to celebrate your successes, but also it helps you to put together a plan around where you can improve.”
Siobhan agrees: “It’s like a personal checking system against your objectives.”
Rob’s project piece was around something he was working on in his day job.
“It was useful to have that crossover between work-life and study,” he considers. “One strengthened the other. If you’ve got a big juicy project at work, it helps to be able to step back and think about it carefully and reflect upon it for your course project piece. It meant I was able to grasp grey areas I might not have otherwise thought through.”
And it doesn’t matter if the project itself wasn’t all plain sailing, advises Rob. “Having a 100 per cent pristine and successful project isn’t real life. It’s about what you learned on the way.”
Self-driven learning with IoIC support
While a lot of the course was self-driven learning, Rob was grateful that there are points in the process where IoIC experts step in and help you succeed.
“I had a call to talk through the project I’d selected to make sure I wasn’t choosing something that was way off piste and likely to become very difficult,” he explains. “I had picked a broad project, and one of the key bits of advice was to keep the focus narrow, otherwise I might find it a huge piece of work through which to demonstrate my learning. That support is always there, but you’re left to learn on your own.”
Siobhan adds her praise of the support behind the scenes: “The team at IoIC was fantastic – really response and informative. I can’t speak highly enough of them.”
Step outside of your comfort zone
Through the course, Rob has seen the benefits of having an open mind and embracing areas of his role he hasn’t tried before.
“Unless you try something, you don’t know if you’re not good at it. And even if you are, that’s an opportunity to improve, and pick up a new skill,” he advises. “Don’t stick to what you know, as you’re not learning anything. Step outside your comfort zone.”
Siobhan now has a sense that her career is moving into a new phase following the qualification. “I definitely feel like this is the start of something – the start of something really great,” she says. “I have that extra armoury I wanted – to be able say, ‘I can do this and do this well.’
“I can use the confidence I have developed and apply the thinking I learned during the course, and pass that on to colleagues.”
Siobhan believes having the qualification is a real boost to her career development. “Internal comms is still a bit young and in its infancy, so qualifications in our field are still rare, so I feel I have set myself apart.”
If you are interested in applying for a future qualification with IoIC, visit the website for details of the Foundation Diploma or Advanced Diploma or email Sarah Magee, IoIC professional development manager, at [email protected].

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