Learn what you can do to become a better PR practitioner and understand the value professional development has for your career
Regardless of whether you're in a job you love (and hope to stay in it for years to come) or have your eye on another opportunity, it's important to reflect on your existing skill set and consider how you can become a better PR practitioner. Is there more value you could add to yourself, your team or your company right now? Are there skills or experiences you can build on now that would be beneficial for your future career prospects?
From practical skills such as understanding SEO, managing a social media advertising budget, public speaking, and improving your writing through to leadership and management courses, networking opportunities, mentoring programs and sector-specific training, there are numerous ways you can ensure you keep up with the constantly evolving public relations industry.
Maya Ivanovic and Rachel King, co-chairs of the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) NSW Young Guns committee, join me to discuss what value professional development can have to your career and the kinds of opportunities you should be considering to elevate and upskill your experience and knowledge.
“Consider how you can become an 'expert' in something for your team or workplace. Build on a task you already do well, so you become the go-to person for that particular thing. This strengthens your value and experience and helps make a stronger team"
Listen to the full episode on The PR Pod podcast for more about professional development. You'll also find this episode on your fave podcast players, just search "The PR Pod".
HOW DO I IDENTIFY WHICH IS THE RIGHT COURSE FOR ME?
Your company may provide you with training opportunities they have already identified as being best-practice or relevant to your sector. Ask your manager or Human Resources manager for any recommendations.
If not, think about your current strengths and weaknesses as well as the areas of your job you really enjoy. Consider what may be required/expected of you when the time comes to look for a promotion. Is there something you could start working on now that would put you in a better position for securing that next role?
One you've identified the areas you'd like to know more about, ask your colleagues or industry peers if they've done a course they can recommend. Look at the courses your local public relations industry body is facilitating as well as those run by further education facilities outside of PR. Do your research, find out what the course covers and ask questions of the course provider if it's not particularly clear what content it covers.
SHOULD I FOCUS ON A COURSE THAT MAKES ME BETTER AT MY JOB RIGHT NOW, OR SOMETHING THAT MAY BE USEFUL IN THE FUTURE?
You should really be looking at it from both perspectives.
Think about what you want to achieve in the next three months, six months and years to come. For example, if you're aiming to move into a management position in the next 6 - 12 months, doing a course on leadership or managing difficult people is something you can start doing now. Likewise, consider if there's something you could do now that would be of value immediately.
Keep in mind you may have to create your own opportunities to utilise your new skills. For example, if you've done a course on SEO but SEO management is not something you're currently required to do in your role, look at reviewing the SEO for the business you work for, or offer it to one of your clients to practice your skills.
There is little value in having a plethora of courses to your name but not to be practising anything you've learnt.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I BE WORKING ON MY PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT?
If professional development starts to become a chore, you won't connect with what you're learning particularly well and you're less likely to implement what you have learnt. You need to find the balance for yourself with how much effort you need to place in this space.
Every person is different on what they want to achieve and when, but consider where you're at and where you want to be and set yourself some professional development goals to help you achieve that.
ARE NETWORKING EVENTS IMPORTANT TO ATTEND?
Look at attending events where you can take a few things from them and you'll feel like they are of more value. Perhaps your local PR association is hosting a keynote speaker on new measurement practices and then coffee and cake after. Use that as an opportunity to keep on top of industry trends and developments plus a chance to meet some new people.
In Australia, Business Chicks facilitates female speakers from Australia and abroad to speak on different areas of business, their pathway to success plus challenges they've overcome. There's plenty of time for mingling before and after the event and this is a great opportunity to approach someone who may be standing on their own and introduce yourself.
It's important to remember that the majority of the people there will be in a similar position to you. They're likely to have come on their own and would be grateful for someone to start up a conversation.
Some of the connections you do make may not have any obvious benefit right now but could prove fruitful in the future. For example, if you're trying to lock in a coconut water sponsor for a breakfast event, you can call on a connection you made at a previous networking event and it gives you a quick and direct contact. Or, perhaps you were introduced to someone within PR who works for a company you've always aspired to work at, and they can give you some tips on what they look for in candidates.
If you're like me and shy in these situations, set yourself a goal of meeting three new people at an event. It encourages you to make more of an effort. If you're hopeless at small talk, think of a few questions you can have up your sleeve, to make the introductions more smooth.
Make sure you follow up with new connections on LinkedIn or email. It's a great way of cementing the connection.
HOW CAN I USE LINKEDIN TO INCREASE MY NETWORK?
LinkedIn articles (similar to a blog post but hosted on LinkedIn) are a great way to practice your writing, become a thought leader on a topic as well as build your personal profile.
It doesn't matter if you have been in PR for one week or ten years, you have something valuable to share about your experience that may inspire, motivate or educate someone else. There's an audience out there for everything so by sharing what you know or have experienced, it can connect you to other like-minded individuals.
Karen Tisdell has some created some excellent content about LinkedIn articles as well as building up your LinkedIn profile which are well worth looking at, if you want to know more about how you can maximise your LinkedIn network. You'll find her articles here.
I DON'T HAVE A MENTOR. SHOULD I?
Whether you are part of a formal mentor program or have an informal relationship with someone you consider a mentor, there is immense value in having someone to turn to for practical and professional queries and guidance.
Mentors can be someone who works at the company you're at, whose career you admire. They could be someone in PR who works at a different company who has some broader industry perspective that's helpful. Or, they could be in a completely different industry altogether yet their pathway to success is something you'd like to emulate.
Regardless of who they are and where they work, the first thing you need to identify is what it is you're after in a mentor. Do you want advice and guidance specific to your industry and therefore ideally need someone who has trodden a similar path? Perhaps your needs are more general and revolve around being an effective leader so it really doesn't matter whether they're in PR or not.
Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and understand you will need to be vulnerable and open to sharing these with your mentor, in order for them to be of value to you.
Consider choosing a mentor that has a different personality profile to you. If someone is very similar to you, albeit it more experienced, they may not be able to share an outlook that challenges the way you think.
WHAT IS THE PRIA YOUNG GUNS?
The PRIA Young Guns are a committee who informs the PRIA on events, networking opportunities, training and workshops to benefit emerging PR practitioners. There are committees in most states of Australia.
You can't be a member of the Young Guns but you can be a member of PRIA. You can find out more about what the PRIA does here.
You'll find some other episodes dedicated to professional development up on the podcast already, such as Tips for Landing a PR Job, How to be a Great People Manager, and How to Prove You're Ready for a Promotion.