New PR professionals are often fairly up-to-speed on networking tactics and industry trends early in their career. From graduating from college to starting a first job, it’s only natural that career development is in full swing during this unique transition period.
But once they’ve started a new job, many new professionals can be at a standstill for their next step of career development. If you’re fresh out of college and don’t have access to disposable funds for continuing education, then it’s crucial to find sustainable ways to stay on top of your PR game.
With career advice targeted to those on the job hunt or mid-career to executive level, new professionals who have been working 3–5 years need to be selective and strategic. Anyone can ensure beneficial career development during the early part of your work life with these four tips:
1. Start a personal blog. Did you create a simple blog in college to impress potential employers? Was it part of a class project? Maybe you didn’t have a passion or topic or time to keep it up. Now is the time.
A great way to improve your writing on the evenings and weekends is to write about a topic you enjoy that is or is not related to the area you practice public relations for during the day. Owning a personal blog also allows you to stay on top of digital trends in SEO and copywriting.
2. Rethink job shadowing. I hope as new professionals in your first few companies you love your agency or in-house communications team. You might see yourself staying there awhile — if so, great! But how can you stay abreast of new trends if you aren’t collaborating with other teams or seeing alternate meeting structures? Even for those of us who have friends in the profession from our PRSSA days or college classes, it’s not a given that you’ll be comparing campaign reporting metrics or pitch structures.
One tactic that my agency has implemented is exchange programs. If you work for a company that has multiple offices, then ask to work out of another location for a few days — whether it’s across town or the country. If your workplace is smaller and you work on an internal communications team, then ask to spend a day with another department or even move desks for a full week to immerse yourself in their daily activities. If those options aren’t as feasible, then consider shadowing another agency for a few days.
3. Take time to recharge. The only way to advance fully in your career is to not get burned out. It isn’t a secret that the public relations profession can be just as stressful as it is rewarding.
Make time to see friends and practice hobbies that keep you sane — try workouts from your favorite Instagram influencers, take a set amount of time to binge watch Netflix or maybe even channel your inner Chrissy Teigen in the kitchen.
4. Volunteer with your local PRSA Chapter. Getting involved with your local PRSA Chapter will allow you to meet other professionals in the area. Having these connections can eventually lead to finding a mentor, an introduction to a new client, a reference for hiring someone on your team or even your next job.
Helping plan professional development events and panels for your Chapter can also lead to introductions to subject-matter experts within media relations, social media, crisis management and more. While structures vary by Chapter, volunteering at events can often also allow you free or reduced-price entry to programming in exchange for working a check-in table or live-tweeting a panel.
Pick and choose from the above strategies and start planning for where you want to be in the next five years. No matter what, remember that as a new professional, you’re at the beginning of climbing the career ladder, with a whole jungle gym ahead.
This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of PRSA Tactics.