Every year, a network of Communications professionals/experts within the Public Service, known as the Communications Community Office (CCO), hosts a free multi-day event for federal Communications employees: CCO Learning Days. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, this event was hosted in-person in Ottawa, with virtual/webinar options for employees located across the country. For obvious reasons, this year’s event (March 21 to 25, 2022) was strictly online.
Over the course of a week, Communications employees can attend a series of lectures, workshops, and network with Communications professionals from other federal departments at their disposal. Despite my almost-five-years in the Public Service, this was my first time in attendance. What motivated my decision to attend this year, as opposed to recent years, was a need for connection with individuals outside of my own department/branch (likely influenced by the pandemic), and a thirst to expand my existing skillset and knowledge in my field of work. As we’ve learned throughout the duration of this program, media and trends continue to evolve – much like best practices in Communications, Marketing and PR, so I’ve come to realize how important it is to continue learning in order to stay relevant and make more strategic, informed decisions in the workplace.
Given that this event took place a few months ago, unfortunately, I’m not in a position to provide proof that I attended or a memorable quote from the event. However, I can say with confidence that my experience attending this event is still worth sharing!
Throughout the week, I met/interacted with Communications professionals from Senior Communications Advisors, Communications Managers, and Communications Directors (for context, I’m in the process of becoming a seasoned Communications Advisor). From one Communications expert to another, each person had diverse experience (Internal vs. External communications, crisis communications, speechwriting, social media, video, graphic design…the limit does not exist!)
From having conversations with these individuals and learning more about the work they do, I learned that Communications is very fluid, and you’re never confined to one facet or role “for life” if you don’t choose to be. I recall asking many questions throughout all of my discussions with each person. I was curious to know how each person went from one area of Comms to the next, why they like what they do or if they had a favourite area to work in, and how they acquired the skillset/experience to move from one area of Communications to another. Hearing their individual responses gave me the opportunity to think about where my career path could take me, and how I would get there.
One of the few workshops I attended that left a memorable impression in my mind talked about inclusive communications. Hosted by panelists from Indigenous Services Canada, we discussed existing and emerging strategies to effectively communicate and engage with Indigenous and racialized communities, and how to write authentically, with integrity and empathy to marginalized groups across the country.
Some other ideas/takeaways that I had from the event include:
- We are so incredibly lucky to have advanced technologies and platforms that allow us to do the work that we do, remotely, in response to the pandemic especially;
- Your career path is what you make it – you’re the only one in control of the experience you acquire
- Great things never came from comfort zones – say yes to new opportunities in new areas whenever they arise
- The field of Communications, Marketing and PR will never be the same from one year to the next – this allows professionals in the field to continue learning and adapting
In summary, to say that I found the event and overall experience rewarding would be an understatement. From stepping outside of what is familiar to me, in my own department, I can say that I’ve had memorable, fulfilling conversations with professionals that share similar interests and skills with my own, built connections/expanded my network, and acquired a few mentors that can guide me along my Communications journey too.