1. Be a joiner.
Getting involved in PR organizations is the perfect way to make contacts and improve your understanding of the industry. Become a member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), or another industry association in your area. But don't stop at sending in a membership form. Be a joiner. Take on a leadership role and become active in a committee or on the board. The dividends are endless: exposure, contacts, knowledge, and more.
2. Continue your formal education.
Many universities have extension courses that allow professionals to deepen their knowledge and make industry connections. Some of these continuing education courses are online—or at least on nights and weekends—so you can bone up on the latest industry trends without interrupting your workday.
3. Get certified.
There is a reason we trust CPAs. They have three little letters after their names, designating industry credibility and certification. You, too, can obtain industry-specific credentials, such as the Accredited Business Communicator (ABC) or Accredited in Public Relations (APR) designations.
4. Attend conferences.
Go to conferences in your industry and attend speaking engagements featuring PR leaders. Check out trade publications for lists of upcoming events. Offer to be a speaker at an industry event if you are particularly skilled in a specific area.
5. Find a mentor.
The best way to learn more about the industry is to find someone who has been there and done that. Learn from that person; then turn around and mentor someone else. Some organizations have formalized this idea. eWomenNetwork, the number-one resource for connecting and promoting women and their businesses, calls it "femtoring" and has trademarked the concept.
6. Keep abreast of media technology.
Nothing changes faster than technology, and you must stay on top of it to be at the top in your field. Today, it's marketing in the age of "The Matrix." Learn about—and practice—podcasting, webinars, and blogging, and use RSS feeds.
7. Jump around.
It's critical you learn everything there is to know about PR and corporate communications. Spend time learning media relations, investor relations, employee communications, corporate branding, and more.
8. Polish that resume.
In today's fast-shifting job climate, there's no excuse; you must keep your resume current. Even if you don't use it to search for a job, it's a great way to track accomplishments.
9. Read every day.
Make daily industry reading part of your routine. My intake includes PR trades, such as PR Week, as well as business journals and newspapers.
10. Be financially savvy.
You may have gone into communications because you like words, but numbers form the language of business. Develop your financial skills and find ways to quantify your efforts.
About the Author:
Cara Good is the co-founder and president of WunderMarx, Inc., a fast-growing international public relations firm differentiating some of the world's most innovative technologies and ideas. She has been quoted and featured in numerous articles on entrepreneurialism, public relations, and marketing and speaks frequently on these topics. For more information, visit www.wundermarx.com.