Make Time for Professional DevelopmentWell, here we are.

We have only eight working weeks left in the year.

Which begs the question…how are you doing against the professional development goals you set in January?

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our day-to-day busyness.

To put aside your learning goals because you are too busy or too tired to even think about it.

Because you have no time and have other obligations.

But what if I told you there will be no job to keep yourself busy in five years if you don’t focus and invest in your professional development now?

Unfortunately, crisis breeds change so some of you won’t worry about that time until it’s here.

And that’s OK.

Others of you, though, will look around, realize things are changing so rapidly you have to catch up, and do something about it now.

Professional Development is a Must for Every Communicator

I want you to look around…really look around you.

Artificial intelligence is gaining ground.

Chatbots have replaced many parts of customer service.

Blockchain has been called the new internet.

Your work has to be measured beyond media mentions, impressions, and advertising equivalencies—but you have no idea how to read the data in front of you.

Shall I go on?

Professional development is a must for every communicator, no matter how much—or how little—experience you have.

I know some of you will think, “But the PR industry is moving slowly. After all, the industry has been doing the same thing for the last 50 years.”

Ten years ago, I would have agreed with you.

But today, things are moving much more quickly.

It’s hard to keep up with technology, not to mention stay ahead of trends.

Which brings me back to investing in your professional development now, as opposed to later.

Where to Start

Now that you’ve decided to take your career into your own hands and invest in your professional development, it’s time to figure out where to start.

The good news is, you’ve already taken the first step—which is oftentimes the hardest.

Now it’s time to create a plan for yourself; one that will help you create the habit.

It should include:

Don’t forget to include digital networking, as well.

Once you have your plan in place, it’s time to split each goal into monthly and weekly tasks.

Schedule a meeting with yourself at the end of each week—actually put it on your calendar—to review your progress, see what worked and what didn’t, and adjust things for the following week.

Apply the same strategy at the end of each month and quarter.

Don’t forget to write down your weekly and monthly results and progress.

There is no bigger motivator than getting results from your efforts.

So don’t treat it lightly.

Write it down.

All of it.

Challenge Yourself…Often

It’s hard to get out of our comfort zone, but remember you didn’t get where you are today because you stayed where it was warm and comfy.

Make a habit of challenging yourself…often.

Build relationships with colleagues from other departments, especially from marketing, customer service, sales, and finance.

Meet with them regularly, invite them to coffee or lunch, exchange ideas, and listen.

It will give you a different perspective on your organization.

You will learn how they think and begin to understand where there are missing pieces.

This will help you figure out how your new skills will help the organization reach its goals.

But beyond your colleagues, connect with peers in different industries.

Meet with them and share ideas.

You will fast track your learning while networking and making new friends.

(Deirdre Breakenridge talks about this idea in the September Spin Sucks Fireside Chat.)

Treat Professional Development as a Client

Whether you work for yourself or somebody else, it’s time to treat your professional development as if it were a client.

Give it the same attention, dedication, and passion you have for your day-to-day work.

In time and with hard work (there is no way around that), it will pay off.

A version of this first appeared on PR Expanded.

Corina Manea

Corina Manea is the chief community officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She works directly with Spin Sucks students and writes for the award-winning PR blog. She also is the founder of NutsPR. Join the Spin Sucks  community!

View all posts by Corina Manea