You should never stop enhancing your skills—and professional development should be at the top of your list.
Everyone has a slightly different learning style, but whether you gain understanding from reading or watching or doing, once you have the basics down, you need to practice again and again and again to become more proficient.
So here are eight suggestions for what you should learn in order to develop and progress in your PR career:
1. Learn to network.
Go to events, meet people for meals or drinks, engage on social media, and join groups and associations. This is important for business growth, generally, but extra important for those who hate networking, or don’t like talking to strangers.
Just like anything else, it gets easier if you do it a lot.
As an introvert, it’s not my favorite thing to do, but every time I force myself to get out there, I think, “I should do that more often.” I almost always get content ideas, too.
2. Develop your financial acumen.
A lot of us got into communications with liberal arts degrees, but that’s no excuse to not understand the financials.
IF you feel don’t have a seat at the proverbial table, it might be because you don’t understand how a business makes money. Even if you’re not the leader, you must understand financials.
Make friends with someone in the accounting department and ask them to take you under their wing. Once you begin to understand it, you’ll start to see new and creative opportunities for your communications efforts.
If you are the leader, you must forecast income, create budgets, allocate resources and talk to investors and/or lenders.
3. Practice making estimates.
You should be able to predict how much time and how many resources you’re going to spend on a project to make sure you’re getting paid for your work and that the project is profitable.
It’s really easy, and therefore really common, to over-service clients—giving them more than they pay for—but that translates into you and your team working for free. This is no way to service a client, keep employee morale high, or grow a business. Instead, start making an effort to look critically at what you’re offering versus what you’re doing, and make sure they’re aligned.
4. Learn to create boundaries.
We used to have client who took two hours of your time every time she got you on the phone. It didn’t matter if she just needed a quick answer. You would lose two hours of your life.
The first couple of times, I was accommodating, even though it set me back. After it kept happening, I had to set some boundaries and I scheduled a two-hour, bi-weekly call with her to cover all her questions. However, she still called—and I, of course, ended up sending her to voicemail every time.
This didn’t make her happy. I got used to hearing, “I thought you were here to service my account.” Sometimes the best estimating and financial skills won’t help and you have to learn to fire a client
5. Acquire patience.
In business, as in life, not everything works out the way you want. Some are better at waiting patiently than others, but everyone can get better at being calm and graceful while waiting.
Remember to step back, think about the big picture, and breathe.
6. Get better at communication.
Communications professionals are well-versed in external communication, but maybe as adept at internal and interpersonal communication.
No one thinks, “I’m not very good at communicating with my team.” Yet, if everyone is as good as they think they are, who do so many people feel like their colleagues don’t listen to them?
The single most important part of effective communication is effective listening. That doesn’t mean listening to respond; it means listen to hear what the other person is saying. This mindset takes practice.
7. Become a tenacious negotiator.
You might think that negotiation only matters for people at the top—owners and executives talking to clients or suppliers. However, this skill comes up in all levels of an organization—talking about timelines, compensation, workloads, how to achieve goals—pretty much any scenario where two or more people might have different ideas about how to resolve a situation.
One clear example–that drives me absolutely batty—about comes from my experience of hiring for my agency in the last 14 years: Women never negotiate their job offer. Men always negotiate. Even if it’s the ideal job offer and you’re getting everything you want and more, always negotiate.
Demonstrate to the hiring manager how you might behave when a client pushes you into a corner or asks for something your team can’t deliver. If you won’t negotiate on behalf of yourself, what happens when a client asks you to work a weekend show for them without increasing the budget? You will never, ever have an offer rescinded because you negotiate—so make it a life skill that you practice.
8. Continue to learn.
If you get out of the habit of taking in, synthesizing and applying new information and skills, it becomes harder and harder to do.
If you constantly expand the reach of what you know and what you’re able to accomplish, you’ll always be ready to adapt to what’s happening in your work.