Three Ways to Boost Your PR Skills & Stay Relevant (Without Grad School)

When you’re in school, taking the time to learn is not only encouraged, it’s expected. In the real world carving time out of your hectic schedule to develop and expand on your skills can be much more challenging.

But, in the relatively short time I’ve been working, I have witnessed waves of rising and falling trends, a steadily increasing emphasis on digital and social campaigns and a rapidly changing media landscape. The PR industry is evolving incredibly fast, and finding that time to learn about what’s next and how to effectively use today’s tools and tactics is critical for staying relevant.

I’ll be honest; my quest to stay engaged without the structure that comes with traditional education has been fraught with unused tools, abandoned schedules and cancelled subscriptions. Hey, I’m only human. 

The methods that I have stuck with however have made a huge difference for me, so I thought I’d share them here, in case continuing your professional development is a shared goal.

Go Out After Work (No, Not Just for Happy Hour) 

I consider myself incredibly lucky to have peers in the industry who encourage (read: push) each other to attend events. The DC area is packed with events and workshops (both free and paid) where you can develop new skills, ask specific questions, and network with some of the smartest people in the industry. I highly recommend looking out for events that seem interesting to you like General Assembly workshops, WWPR panels, 1776 events. You never know whom you’ll meet and what will inspire your next great idea.

Use the Internet (For More than Facebook and Shopping)

So, yes, I did just sing a mini-aria about how happy I am to be free from the rigor of traditional higher education, but unless you want to become irrelevant some version of “school” is unavoidable. Thanks to the magic of the internet, you can take classes from top universities and industry experts for free. I’ve taken a few so far ranging from Intro to Linux (really, REALLY hard) to Social and Digital Marketing.

If there’s a skill you want to develop, or even an unrelated subject you’re interested in (I’m taking a class on Cultural Geography next) I highly recommend checking out CourseraEdXALISON or Class Central.

Read — Easy as 3, 2, 1  

I know what you’re thinking, “read to learn – that’s super original.” Well, hear me out. Last year I made it a goal to make time for industry reading, but found myself drowning in content (thanks, Feedly). Honestly, with the internet at your fingertips, how do you decide when you’ve done enough?

Since then, I’ve adopted a 3, 2, 1 system. Every morning (alrightmostly) I read six articles — three that have to do the tech industry or my clients, two relating to the PR industry, and one just for fun. Quantifying the goal and balancing the subjects made sticking with it so much easier.

For example, here’s what I read this morning:

Pro-tip: You can also find news stories on Audible and listen on your commute 

These seemingly small steps have made a big impact on my continued education and approach to professional development — but I’d love to hear what works for you! Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments.