By Carlee Pett, Account Coordinator, R&J Public Relations
During my undergraduate commencement ceremony in May, I thought to myself, “YES, I’m done! No more sitting through lectures, reading textbooks, attending seminars, or studying.” Just over six months later, as a recent college graduate and public relations professional, I realize how naive and mistaken I was to assume that my college graduation would signify the conclusion of my learning experiences.
As a “yo pro” (young professional), I now recognize that while everything I learned academically and all the skills I acquired through college have helped me immensely, my degree alone will not be enough if I truly want to be successful and move upward in my career path. I now understand that my diploma – which I am very proud of – only helped to get my foot in the door, and everything I learned in college will only carry me so far. Especially in an industry as demanding, fast-paced, and ever-changing as public relations, continuing education is essential to becoming an expert in the field and is required to stand-out not only to your own coworkers and bosses, but also to your clients. The extra effort put forth to expand your expertise and continue your education will make you a more valuable team member and will ultimately help equip you with the true skills and tools you need to succeed.
After a recent experience at PR News’ One-Day Boot Camp, I was inspired to create a plan, guided by my own specific goals, and to come up with tactics and ways in which I can continue my education throughout the entirety of my career, as lifelong learning is essential to personal development and professional growth in the workplace. Although no one’s future plans are identical, here are a few tips I’d like to share, as I encourage you, no matter which industry you work in, to set yourself apart from your peers and develop your own continuing education plan:
- Read. Spend your free time wisely, and immerse yourself in a new industry-related book, journal, blog, or magazine, for inspiration and to keep your knowledge up-to-date. Read about the latest emerging trends, studies, and practices within your field, and apply the new knowledge you’ve acquired.
- Explore external options. Recognize your weaknesses or areas you’d like to learn more about, and enroll in a relevant learning opportunity. There are ample opportunities available for all professions, all ages, and all skill levels to enhance professional practices. Set a goal to attend a specific number of events per year, whether a graduate or certificate course, conference, webinar, degree program, or networking collaboration.
- Utilize your sources. Conduct informational interviews or schedule lunches with various contacts to gain insight into a particular field, help grow your network, and expand your understanding of an industry or topic. It can also be helpful to use Twitter to follow these contacts and other leaders in your field, to learn from like-minded individuals.
- Find a mentor or coach. Identify a skilled professional in your field as your mentor, and refer to them for professional advice and to learn more about their career path. Take advantage of this valuable coaching, and read pieces they’ve published, their blog posts, and attend any lectures or speeches they conduct, if applicable.
But after all, as I previously mentioned, I am a recent college graduate still learning the tools and essentials needed to strive in the workplace. So, the above are just some tips of advice that I have learned thus far, and I honor and encourage your input. Feel free to share any of your own tips to continue education after college, or any other recommendations to help us “yo pros” strive in the workplace and set the path for our future!