Professional Development Public Relations

Career Development for ‘Accomplished’ New Professionals

As a new professional, knowledge and skills specific to your first five years working in public relations help build your career. But at such a crucial point in your professional development, there can be a large gap in the support that each new pro needs.

For example, a recent college graduate is often practicing interviews and settling into their first full-time position. Meanwhile, new pros in their third, fourth or fifth year of work are beginning to manage staff, negotiate salary raises or promotions, and accept positions at new companies.

Needless to say, a new pro starting out in their career and a new pro continuing to grow strategically have different professional development needs. As career advice for new pros often focuses on the workplace transition after college, I’d like to share a few options for new pros settling into their careers who want to continue to grow.

1. Do pro bono work.

Are you passionate about a sector in public relations besides the one you currently work in? If so, then explore doing pro bono PR work for an organization in need. Or, join a nonprofit board and take on a communications chair position. This is a win-win, as a deserving person receives professional work for free, while you can add this to your résumé and practice new skills that you might not utilize at your current job.

2. Apply for professional awards.

From PRSA campaign awards to Chapter-level “30 under 30” awards, there are many places to obtain recognition for your hard work. Look into competitions related to young professional boards you may be involved with or awards honoring professionals in the specific sector of communications you work in. Also check to see if your alma matter recognizes alumni that have accomplished big projects early in their career — this is a great place to showcase your work.

3. Pass along your knowledge as a mentor.

New pros arguably learn more in their first few years of work than during any other time in their career. It’s never too soon to put your knowledge to use through mentorship. Did you have unique interview experiences, land an international PR gig, or negotiate a compensation package at your first job? If so, then mentor a college student. Whether it’s one-on-one or presenting in front of university classes, students appreciate hearing stories of successful new pros who were just in their shoes.

Conversely, try out a reverse mentorship. Currently a hot topic in communications, this setup allows you to teach a seasoned professional how to use new tools — usually technology-related — and adapt to the changing PR landscape.

4. Further your education.

The PR profession is always evolving, so it’s crucial to keep your finger on the pulse of new developments. If you’re looking to brush up on a specific skill, then learn a few tips relating to a project you’re working on. To edge your way to that next promotion, check out free or low-cost classes on websites such as Coursera and Lynda. Or, seek professional certifications. If you have aspirations to teach public relations one day or work in-house for a highly specialized sector, then grad school may also be an option to consider.

5. Start to earn your letters.

Becoming Accredited in public relations is a great way to demonstrate your personal and professional commitment to excellence. After reaching the five-year career mark, professionals are eligible to apply to earn their APR certification, which consists of a panel presentation and a computer-based examination. Once you earn your APR, there are opportunities for continued learning and participation at industry events to maintain your commitment to the sound and ethical practice of public relations.

This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of PRSA Tactics.


  1. These are all wonderful tips! I second the tip on applying for awards or asking others to nominate you. I think it’s the toughest one to do since it’s often hard to promote yourself. But if you believe if your work and the change it has on others and/or your field, it’s a great way to highlight to future employers your dedication and recognition.

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