PRofessional Development Week Overview

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Mar 24, 2009 in Career

I recently had a special series on A Step Ahead called “PRofessional Development Week.”

Here are the posts from the series, featuring many great guest bloggers:

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Never Stop Learning (PRofessional Development Week Extra)

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Mar 12, 2009 in Career, PRofessional Development Week, Public Relations

This post is a part of PRofessional Development Week. This special week, originally to last from March 2 to March 6, will be extended. Here is one PRofessional extra.

This is a guest post by Jared Bryan, the PRSSA chapter president at Wayne State University.

Over the last several years, I have heard students mention how excited they are to leave school and not have to worry about studying or reading all these books.  I know that I may hurt some feelings by saying this, but after graduation, or for that matter after you own a company, you will never stop learning. Yes, that means you will need to read and study.  No, that does not always mean you will be taking a test.

Public relations is a changing industry. There was once a time when radio, television, and the internet did not exist, and with the growth of these technologies the industry had to change and adapt.  As these changes continue, it is your responsibility to adapt.

My sophomore year in college I attended the Student Development Conference at Eastern Michigan University.  John Bailey, President of John Bailey & Associates spoke about some key things to do as a student, and one stood out to me: read.  He emphasized the importance of reading books to improve both your writing and your understanding.  This is one of the best professional development tips I have ever received.

Below are a few tips to maintaining a great library of resources. 

  1. Keep your Textbooks – Many students sell back the textbooks for their classes thinking they will never have to look at them again.  Keep these books on your shelf, you never know when they will make a great reference tool.
  2. Bookmark Online Articles – Taking time to read blogs and articles online is a great way to stay on top of industry trends, but have you ever tried to find an article you read a week ago and are lost at where to start?  Start using an online bookmarking tool.  I use Foxmarks to organize and store important articles.
  3. Buy Books –  Ask professionals you meet if they can suggest a good read.  Many will be in the middle of a great book when you ask them.  Find cheap books on Amazon and purchase them for your personal library.  A few dollars for vast knowledge is a small investment with great reward.
  4. Subscribe to PR Week – Subscribe and read PR Week both online and in print.  This publication will have good information to keep you informed on changes and trends.
  5. Participate in Discussion – Don’t just read, but read with a purpose.  If you are not part of book club or a company required program, join Learn it. Live it Love it. This book club focuses on a book each month to help students and professionals to discuss the things they are learning from the books they read.
  6. Read PRSA Issues and Trends (for PRSSA members) – As a member you should be receiving emails called “Issues and Trends.”  Take time to scan the articles and read them.  PRSA has done the research for you, so take advantage of it.

I hope these tips help you to start creating a great library of resources for your future. You won’t know everything; you can’t know everything, but you better know how to find out!

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Beyond a Public Relations Degree: Accreditation (PRofessional Development Week)

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Mar 5, 2009 in APR, Career, Guest Post, Public Relations

This post is a part of PRofessional Development Week. The posts from March 2 to March 6 will focus on the development of professional skills of public relations students. If you would like to contribute to this special week on A Step Ahead, e-mail Rachel.M.Esterline {at} Gmail.com.

This is a guest post by Nick Lucido, the president of the Michigan State University chapter of PRSSA.

As students, it’s easy to think in the short run of things during our collegiate career. We get jobs and internships, join student organizations and make time for class – all for the sake of finding a job after graduation.

Here’s something that will make you think even further – what will you be doing to advance your career after graduation? Sure, it might be a couple years down the line, and the recession probably isn’t encouraging this kind of thinking. As public relations professionals, it’s never too early to start thinking about becoming accredited in public relations.

During the weekend, I attended a Regional Activity at Central Michigan University hosted by the CMU and FSU PRSSA Chapters. My favorite session was a discussion with Renee Walker, APR, vice president of public relations and marketing at CMU. She talked not only about career strategy, but professional development opportunities within PRSA. Part of this discussion included some tips and tricks relating to the APR accreditation.

Here’s how PRSA defines the APR:

“APR is a mark of distinction for public relations professionals who demonstrate their commitment to the profession and to its ethical practice, and who are selected based on broad knowledge, strategic perspective, and sound professional judgment.”

The Universal Accreditation Board, a consortium of nine public relations organizations (PRSA is one of these), supervises the accreditation process. Not only do you get to add letters after your name, but this “mark of distinction” signals you are a public relations strategist. Remember, it’s one thing to be able to write a press release or organize a press conference, but it’s another thing to conduct a public relations campaign and have full understanding of the project.

Even though you might be a student or young professional, there are some things you can do to start preparing for the exam:

  • Work in a variety of internship settings and build your portfolio. If you can work in an internship for more than a year, you will probably be able to see more projects start to finish.
  • Check out Preparation Sources for some tips and practice guides for earning this accreditation.
  • Build your “board of directors.” In other words, build relationships and keep in touch with your mentor(s) and senior-level PRSA members to help guide you through the process.
  • Get active in the profession outside your career. Working with nonprofits, taking a board position with your local PRSA Chapter and mentoring students can enrich your career with the skill and knowledge you will need for the exam.
  • Read, read, and read. Even though you just might be sick of reading about public relations, keep up with new books and magazines, subscribe to PR Week, keep an eye on Amazon’s list of top marketing books and even join the PR Book Club. Just because you have completed college or will soon does not mean that your education is over.

Once you have at least between two and five years of public relations experience, you will be eligible to start the process of becoming accredited. Keep in mind that the test is meant for a seasoned practitioner. There are some steps you must take in order to prepare for the exam.

  • Apply for eligibility and prepare
  • Use coaching, mentoring and support services
  • Complete readiness review questionnaire
  • Participate in readiness review
  • Schedule computer-based examination
  • Take the test and rock it

If you’re still wondering if you should take your career to the next level, consider this fact:

APR’s make 20 percent more than other public relations professionals. Have you started studying for the exam yet?

Read some Q&A about APRs here.

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Three Ways To Launch and Manage Your Career (PRofessional Development Week)

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Mar 4, 2009 in Career, Conferences, Public Relations

This post is a part of PRofessional Development Week. The posts from March 2 to March 6 will focus on the development of professional skills of public relations students. If you would like to contribute to this special week on A Step Ahead, e-mail Rachel.M.Esterline {at} Gmail.com.

Renee Walker, the associate vice president of public relations and marketing at Central Michigan University, shared this quote with us at the CMU-FSU PRSSA Regional Activity:

Don’t let the fear of falling keep you from knowing the joy of flight.

— Lane Wallace

Here are three ways to help launch and manage your career that I learned from Renee:

  1. Create a list of “must haves,” “deal breakers,” “professional goals” and “personal goals.”
    To help you evaluate whether or not your career is going in the right direction, Renee suggested creating a list. For example, one of my “must haves” is a job that challenges me. If it is too easy, I won’t be learning much. A “deal breaker” is a job that requires me to fetch coffee. I believe in paying my dues, but I don’t want my position of intern to be taken advantage of.
  2. Identify your talents and experience gaps.
    By identifying your talents, you can better promote yourself. And, by identifying your experience gaps, you can find ways to gain the experience you need. My talents include social media and writing for publications. But, I don’t have a lot of experience in media relations. In order to close the experience gap, I should work on gaining experience in media relations in order to advance my career.
  3. Establish stretch goals.
    Since working with Renee when I was an intern in her office, I have realized she believes in pushing yourself to reach higher goals. She calls these “stretch goals.” She said it is OK if you don’t always reach your stretch goals, but you can never reach them if you don’t try. This is where her favorite quote, at the top of this post, comes in.

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Mentors Make A Difference

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Mar 4, 2009 in Mentoring, Public Relations

I first realized the importance of mentors during my last two years of high school because of two teachers who had a significant impact on my career. I recently posted on the PRSSA blog about Mentors in Public Relations, but I had more to say.

My journalism teacher, Mrs. Tong, helped me find my passion for writing and design, which eventually led me to PR. She gave me a lot of responsibility as executive editor and I found out how much I enjoyed being a leader. (See her and the 2006 broadcasting class to the right…I’m the short one!).

My creative writing/speech and drama teacher, Mrs. Chema, also had an impact on me. She was very encouraging and very easy to talk to. She talked to me about writing, law (I was interested in becoming a lawyer then), college and more.

So how do mentors help you once you’re in college and preparing for a career?

Well, here’s how my college mentors have been helping me.

Last Saturday, I met one of my newest mentors. One of the perks of being an Allan Schoenberg Award recipient is being mentored by Allan himself (picture to left is of us at the conference last weekend). Allan has mentored many PRSSA students so far and I’m very excited to be a mentee. Allan has offered me ideas and advice via Twitter, which is how we usually keep in touch, and also has been helping me by taking a look at my cover letter.

Another mentor, Kevin Saghy, has talked to me about working at agencies, running for a national position and preparing a resume. Kevin was assigned to be my mentor at The Creative Career (which is in need of more mentors, so please sign up).

Two of the people I worked with at CMU Public Relations and Marketing have also been great mentors. Dan Digmann and Cynthia Drake gave great advice during my internship and I have stayed in contact with them both.

Nikki Stephan and Lauren Weber, both who are CMU alumni, have been like mentors too. Due to Twitter, I’ve been able to stay in contact with them since job shadowing them in 2007.

How do you be a good mentee?

I’ve found one of the key things with mentors is to maintain the relationship. When I find interesting information online that I think would interest a mentor, I send it on to them. For my mentors who are on Twitter, I try to talk to them when I can. It’s not all about helping the mentee–it should be a two-way relationship.

As a mentee, I think you also have the responsibility to be a mentor. For example, I gave advice to Dan about his new Web site. Although he has years of experience as a writer, I have more experience in social media. I also think it is important to mentor those who have less experience than you do. It can be as easy as helping a friend with a press release.

How Have Mentors Helped Your Career?

Here’s a few tweets about mentors:

ArizonaBrian I wouldn’t be in the position I am today w/o my mentors – the networking opps and advice they provided for me are priceless

kristen_okla I have 2 amazing mentors ~ taught me the basics of PR but also how to play in a man’s business world … and so much more.

CredibleKev They are your go-to sounding board for when you need a gut check.

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You’re doing it all wrong!

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Feb 17, 2009 in professional development

Constructive criticism can help you develop something good into something great.

Feel free to tell me, “You’re doing it all wrong!” Then, I can fix it.

But, how can you give and receive criticism without it being taken the wrong way? It’s not always easy.

A friend recently gave me a piece of criticism. After mulling it over, I could see her angle. I also could see several other angles coming into play.

I’ve been more aware of what I’ve been doing lately because of her criticism (which could be seen more as a piece of advice). PickTheBrain had a lot of great advice on taking criticism. I think one of the best points made was to ask what you can do better.

You can help others with constructive criticism.

I recently critiqued a resume and writing sample for a PRSSA member at another chapter. I enjoy helping others when I can. PickTheBrain also has advice on the art of giving criticism.

The best thing you can do when giving criticism is tell the person exactly how they can improve.

Don’t say: “You need to rework your resume.”
Say: “Your bullet points need work. I would suggest developing them into measurable accomplishments rather than just job duties.”

Don’t say: “This press release needs work.”
Say: “I think it would be better if you focused your lead on this aspect. Then lead into the next paragraph with more information.”

So don’t tell me I’m doing things wrong. Instead, tell me how I can improve.

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What has made the difference?

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Feb 3, 2009 in Blogging

Dave Baker recently asked me an interesting question: “Do you think it is that you are driven to be the best or did something, or someone, happen along the way that made a difference?”

A picture of my dad and I on Christmas Eve 2007My reply to him inspired me to write a blog post about it.

I have an intense drive to learn as much as I can about PR. I am very passionate about my career and professional development. But it was interesting to think of why.

The first thing that came to mind when David asked me this question was my dad. He has been a strong influence. To the right is a picture of us from Christmas Eve 2007. There were two things he always said:

  1. Be the best. There are hundreds of people who are good at their jobs, so you need to be the best to stand out.
  2. “Failure is not an option.” This is something he said often. And when you tell yourself this, you have no choice but to succeed.

I also have personal beliefs which have formed over the past several years. I am a firm believer that things are what you make of them. If you make the most out of every opportunity, you will get a lot out of it. If you are constantly negative about things, then you’re going to have a negative life.

My horse and I in 2005Some of my traits can be attributed to the 11 years I spent showing horses. That taught me about hard work, persistence and confidence. The picture to the left is of Vinnie, a Morgan gelding, and I in 2005. That was the year we made it to state because I of my hard work and determination.

I also believe, to be successful, you need to be passionate and driven. You have to want to learn something for the sake of learning it. And do things just because you like it (like reading and writing).

For example, I taught myself HTML and created my first Web site and online publication when I was 13. I did it because I just wanted to know. When I was 15, I wrote articles because I loved reading magazines and wanted to be a writer someday.

So if you’re wondering why I keep a blog or why I am so focused on my career, I hope this has given you a little insight.

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