Getting your first communications job means meeting the expectations companies have for the modern-day communicator. Knowing how to write well just isn’t enough. So, what is? I analyzed 20 different job postings for Communication Coordinators posted by organizations across Canada to understand how this role is currently being defined.
These employers ranged from global corporations to post-secondary institutions to sports organizations. All of these jobs held the title of “Communications Coordinator” only, with no adjoining terms such as “social media” or “marketing”. The statistics you’ll find below come from counting up what was found in these job postings.
After understanding these expectations, you can equip yourself with the education, experience and knowledge to land your first job.
85% of employers sought candidates with a post-secondary education
No surprise here. These days, you need to complete a post-secondary education to work almost anywhere as a communications professional. Only a few employers would accept several years of work experience as an equivalent for holding a degree, diploma or certificate. But do you need a degree in communications?
Most job ads will ask for a communications degree or a field relevant to communications (i.e. English). But almost any humanities degree will suffice. After all, I studied political science and spent just as much time writing, editing, and proofreading as any communications major.
Some employers stated they would accept a candidate with a college degree, diploma or graduate certificate in communications in lieu of a bachelor’s degree. In regards to a certificate, this means that even if your bachelor’s degree was in computer science, if you obtained a graduate certificate in communications afterwards you can still qualify for a communications position.
80% of employers sought a strong writer and editor
Being a great writer is an enviable skill because frankly, not many people are great at writing. And writing is not just about getting your grammar right and catching errors (that’s proofreading). Writing as a communications professional means having the ability to understand your audience, capture a brand voice, simplify complex ideas, and make not-so-complex or interesting ideas marketable.
Every company needs at least one great writer because the written word is everywhere: the website, press releases, marketing materials, social media, internal communications, and more. This is why the communications profession is not so easily defined because you can be writing for any one of these mediums or, in some cases, all of them.
You may be surprised to learn not every Communications Coordinator will spend their whole day writing. Some companies have Copywriters who concern themselves with the written word and your role will be putting those words up on the website or sending out the press release—but not writing this content yourself.
70% of job postings mentioned social media management
Social media strategy and implementation are commonly lumped in with the usual duties of a Communications Coordinator even though, in my view, they do not directly coincide. Even though Facebook exploded over ten years ago, many companies are still trying to figure out how to use social to meet their business objectives.
I suppose the train of thought is something like: well, social media involves a lot of copywriting and a Communications Coordinator is first and foremost a writer. There’s also the very common idea that every young person is a social media whiz so these new grads can totally manage an Instagram account. (Ok boomer.)
Regardless, be prepared to have social media be your responsibility. That will mean managing multiple brand accounts, keeping a content calendar, posting, growing followers, and even photography and graphic design.
50% of job postings mentioned website management
If you’ve never used WordPress and have no idea how to write HTML code, then this one might make you panic a little. But here’s the good news: none of this is going to be hard to learn.
Because so much of communications is now happening online, there has been a natural transition to putting web content management onto the plate of communicators. That looks like updating the website with new content, changing links, posting blogs, and adding images.
Usually, you will use a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, or one that is very similar, and you might have to learn basic HTML and CSS codes so you can properly format the content on the website. (Because even the savviest WordPress theme may fail you.)
40% of job postings mentioned media relations
Media relations is a broad term and at any job, you might not do everything that falls under the umbrella—or you very possibly could. It all depends on the needs of the organization, which by the way, can change at any given moment.
Normally, job ads will be pretty precise with the kind of media relations support they need. Expect to see terms such as…
- Research (finding new media contacts to pitch to)
- List building (building a list of media contacts to pitch to)
- Media monitoring (checking news coverage to see if your company was mentioned)
Media relations will also include pitching to media, writing press releases, and sending out media kits. And nowadays, you can also expect to be managing relationships with influencers as well, just as you would with traditional journalists.
30% of job postings mentioned event planning
That’s right. Be prepared to curate the guest list, rent the venue, order the gift bags, and get estimates from caterers.
It always came as a shock to me that a Communications Coordinator would be responsible for planning conference appearances, as well as attending the conference as a representative. It seems that most companies do not want to employ an Event Coordinator so they just throw the task onto the desk of the Communications Coordinator.
But listen, employers won’t turn you down for a job if you don’t have event management experience. They will assume that is something you can just pick up and it is rarely a sticking point for them.
Here are the other skills and experience employers mentioned in their job postings:
- Cross-team collaboration
- SEO knowledge
- Customer service
- Flexibility (ability to work weekends, evenings, and holidays)
- Email marketing
And, when mentioned, this was the most sought-after type of work experience:
- PR agency
Cool, cool, cool. You’re a great writer and you’re amazing at Instagram. But you’re still not being hired and it feels like you’re missing something. How do you stand taller than all the peers you just graduated with that are just as good at everything as you are?
In these job postings, some organizations would mention preferences they have for their candidate that would help push their resume to the top of the pile.
These are the most common “bonus skills” that employers in Canada are looking for:
- Bilingualism (English and French)
- Project management
- Graphic design
- Video production
Communications is a field that will continue to evolve and so we must ask ourselves, where will it go next?
Here are my predictions:
- Communicators will be increasingly expected to do paid social advertising. I was surprised to find this wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the postings that I reviewed but it’s possible they are included under the “social media management” umbrella.
- There is going to be less emphasis on media relations. Don’t expect that the bulk of your day will be involve writing press releases and pitching news media. Instead of using newspapers as their mouthpieces, companies are moving towards communicating through their own owned online channels. That is why you’ll see instead that communicators will have to become proficient in CMS platforms such as WordPress.
Are you overwhelmed? Or are you up for the challenge? I firmly believe that communications is one of the most exciting professions out there and communicators are incredibly impressive people. Communicators are shapeshifters; they can be anything you want. They are prepared to solve any problem because they are equipped with far more tools than the average person. They are also generalists more often than specialists.
Does that sound like you, or who you want to be? Then you’re in the right field.