There’s an ironic convergence going on in our household right now: I’m gearing up to attend my 30th college reunion in the fall, while our son just graduated from college and is starting his first job. Our daughter, a college sophomore, is already thinking ahead to her first internship. As they both pore over job listings and network through LinkedIn, I contemplate returning to my own alma mater.
If you’re wondering what all of this collegiate reflection has to do with PR, I’ll get to the point: our professional education doesn’t end in in college; it should never end. In this whirlwind digital age, it has never been more important for PR pros to keep learning. It’s a tall order for busy professionals as we juggle work, family, extra-curricular activities, community service, etc., etc. ad nauseum. Here are three ways I stay ahead of the curve:
- I accept that I can’t learn everything at once. I’m insatiable curious, and with the avalanche of information available, I often get overwhelmed and overloaded. So I select a few days per week, a few minutes at a time (usually my lunch hour or after 5 pm), to dip my toe into the pond. I read blogs, articles and other best practices. I print out articles (on recycled paper to try to be “green”) or forward to my iPad. I take my “reading pile” with me when I know I’ll be delayed (youth sports practices and doctors’ offices are ideal for this.). One of my favorite sites is Mashable.
- I select only a few mentors to follow. There are a lot of self-professed experts in our field. I’ll pick up tips from quite a few of them. But when it comes to real learning from mentors, I discriminate. My aunt, a world-renowned consultant in her field since the early ‘80s, is one of my mentors. In social media, I’m a big fan of Chris Brogan.
- I stay engaged with fellow PR professionals. Seems obvious but it’s not always so easy in practice. While I may be a “veteran” practitioner, I always pick up useful tips at PRSA luncheons (often, from the folks at my table). I occasionally participate in #journchat, a weekly online conversation among PRs, journalists and bloggers. I often check out PRSA’s official blog. And I like to chat with PR students and young professionals, digital natives who can teach me a lot about using social networks.
How do you stay educated?