Mastering your craft. We hear the phrase often in self-help books, motivational speeches or guides to success. I found myself thinking about this topic recently and, as I did more research, found it has become very commercialized with claims of distinct, tunnel-vision methods.
While immersing yourself in and attempting to master your craft is not a one-size-fits-all package, there are some common principles I have experienced in the PR world that may benefit anyone, regardless of their profession.
Earlier this winter, I joined the West Michigan chapter of the Public Relations Society of America to give myself another avenue to gain professional development experience. I wanted to further immerse myself in the PR world by being a part of one of the largest groups of public relations professionals in the country, and also make connections and learn more about West Michigan.
By no means am I claiming I have all the answers, but I’ve had a number of experiences that have helped me in my professional career that may help you in your journey as you work on your craft, whatever it may be.
Join an Organization
While my experience with WMPRSA has been short-lived, is not the first professional organization I’ve been a part of. Joining a professional organization has provided great benefits for my career both professionally and personally.
All good organizations should offer professional development opportunities to learn more about your craft. Webinars, conferences and certification programs are all great ways to continue to be a student of the industry. I am appreciative of PRSA and the West Michigan chapter for offering those opportunities and am looking forward to continuing to participate more in the future.
But professional development is just one aspect you should be looking for when considering joining an organization. The social side of these groups is equally important.
It’s become an age-old adage, but bears repeating. Making connections within your line of work is the foundation to establishing yourself in the industry, advancing your career and helps with your goals of mastering your craft.
Everyone says networking is vital, especially when you’re young, but how do you network?
This is where the social side of joining a professional organization comes into play.
The most difficult part of networking is the beginning, particularly if you are riding solo. However, all it takes is one conversation to begin building your network. So start out with one person. If you get to know them, you get to know members of their network and before you know it, the links spread like wildfire.
You also never know who you will meet and cross paths with down the road.
For example, at the most recent WMPRSA meeting, I randomly decided to sit next to someone at a table. As we began chatting, I found out she was a SPR alum and that sparked a great conversation. I was also able to meet other professionals from organizations I have known for years, and it was great to meet the faces behind those brands. We had great conversations and, at the next function, I will remember them and continue to build on those connections.
While it is great to partake in the learning opportunities an organization offers, consider how often they have opportunities to network within the group. Online webinars can be great, but they lack the social connection that meetings, luncheons, conferences, dinners and other functions provide.
The connections you make will offer you the ability to learn from others, see how they achieve success or even push you to be better.
You will often see a sustaining value by making connections. A colleague may leave for another job, career or move far away, but chances are, especially in the PR world, your paths will cross again.
Get a Mentor
Because there are many different aspects of PR, some of which can be of high-stress, having someone who is experienced to learn from is a huge advantage and can help calm those nerves when tensions are high or you feel like you don’t know what to do. And you don’t only have to have just one.
Different mentors can bring various experiences and knowledge, which helps the all-encompassing PR world. Perhaps you have a mentor who works in-house at a company and one who works at an agency. Maybe another works in a different field entirely. The importance of having a mentor is not just advancing your job skills, although that is a significant component. It’s also to have someone you can talk to, bounce ideas off of or get life advice.
You also don’t have to be fresh out of school to have one either. I know plenty of individuals well into their careers who still have mentors.
One of my goals over the next few years of my career is to step into a mentor role and help others the way I was helped. Fortunately, WMPRSA has a mentoring committee I hope to be a part of in the future.
Balance is Still Important
If mastering your craft is your end goal, being an industry leader, dubbed an expert or known for being the “best in the biz,” there will be sacrifices. Aspects of your personal life will be put on hold, whether it be working late hours, weekends, meetings with colleagues or clients, or after-work events.
Just because you want to immerse yourself in your work and perfect your craft doesn’t mean you have to live and breathe it 24/7. My colleague Lisa Taylor previously wrote about the importance of work-life balance a few months ago. Taking a break, however long that may be, can refuel your desire to perfect your craft and give time to other aspects of your life that may have been set aside because of your dedication.
It’s healthy to have lofty, long-term goals, but it’s just as common to experience the “dog days” of the processes. Be aware of that and don’t fight it. Have the ability to step away from your work. After all, your craft may be a large part of your life, but it is not who you are.
No matter what stage you are at in your career, there is always room to improve your craft and there are many ways to do so. These are what have helped me in my career and maybe they will help you. Remember, it’s not a one-size-fits-all package, so if you have other experiences leave a comment below, I’d love to hear them.