The Importance of Professional Development


If you are looking for professional development opportunities, the options seem endless. Among PRSA, AMA, AAF, DMA and IABC, there are many organizations for communication and advertising professionals to join. But, how do you figure out what’s the best choice for you? How do you even decide what’s important to your professional development? How do you keep PD fresh and new, even after years in the business? To answer some of these questions and more, we’ve asked a couple SA associates who are active members of different professional development organizations why they think professional development is important to them as professionals and their company.

What options or what kinds of professional development opportunities are out there?

There are many sources of professional development from attending a conference to reading a book or researching online. The most important element in growing professionally is a thirst for knowledge- remain teachable and keep seeking. I love the inspiration and connections that I take from the conferences I attend, but I learn a lot from reading too. Trade journals and research papers, and books about the “hot” topics in our industry are a must. – Jill J.

There are many organizations out there, depending on what your focus is- PR, marketing, advertising, media, design and many more. Each provides a variety of benefits and opportunities to its members to learn more about the industry. Other professional development opportunities can also include getting involved with your college’s alumni association or joining the board of a nonprofit you support. – Abby D.

Why is professional development important to the workplace?

Professional development opportunities give us a chance to step outside of our workplace and hear from other experts in our field to gain best practices. It’s important for us to keep a pulse on what is available and occurring within the industry so we can further serve our clients. – Lara P.

What is important to include in my professional development plan?

Where do you see yourself going in your career, or what are things you’d like to achieve? Once you can define specifically what you want to do and what that looks like, it helps guide your pathway. Make sure your goals include clearly defined metrics for success that you can compare your progress against. – Caleb B.

How can I make a professional development opportunity also a personal development?

Every professional opportunity is going to teach you something that you can translate into personal development. For example, I went to a conference on Project Management, but I took away a lot of nuggets of information on how to better manage my time and work-life balance. The people you meet are also going to play a big part in the experiences and they are great resources when you need not just professional advice, but personal advice as well. In today’s world, the line between professional and personal is becoming very blurred and we are always connected to both. It’s important to try to step back and look at each opportunity and see how it can help you in both arenas. – Kelsey F.

What’s the most important thing you’ve gained through professional development opportunities?

The most important thing I’ve gained through my membership in PRSA is the opportunity to learn from peers in different industries. Being able to network with and hear presentations from PR professionals in different types of organizations and those who work in different industries from my own clients has helped me see how people are applying strategies or tactics in ways I’ve not thought of or seen before. I think these interactions help everyone come up with more creative approaches to their own work. – Abby D.

I’ve been in the business for a while now, and I don’t know how many more PD conferences or presentations I can sit through… How can I continue to learn and grow?

Industry blogs and articles! There is a lot of great content out there and it’s in much shorter snippets than a full day conference or two-hour presentation. If you’re committed to something more long-term, I highly recommend reaching out to a local university to see if you can take a class or two on topics that interest you. Many employers are willing to offer some sort of tuition assistance for secondary education, which is amazing! – Kelsey F.

An easy way I stay up to date on industry trends is reading newsletters from organizations I trust professionally and using that as a starting point for trend/industry news research. It’s a nice way to unwind after a particularly stressful project or even just a long day. Plus, it’s less of a time and cost commitment than a full conference and exposes you to a wider variety of topics. – Caleb B.

I’m just starting out and there’s so much out there for professional development opportunities, organizations and events. Where do I even start?

Volunteer! Organizations are always looking for volunteers. Just be up-front with them on what you have from an availability/time perspective and see what volunteer opportunities might be available. This is a good first step to see if an organization is a great fit with little or no obligation. And, being up-front in the beginning allows everyone to have clear expectations. – Joey T.

Many overlooked opportunities are with community organizations, such as your local Chamber of Commerce. Many Chambers offer Young Professional events/organizations that you can get involved with. What’s great about these groups is that most people are going through some of the same life stages as you, but they likely are in a different industries so they can offer you a new perspective on work challenges. – Kelsey F.

How can my workplace gain from supporting professional development opportunities for its employees?

Employees can use these opportunities or resources to enhance both their personal and professional development and/or goals. Whether it’s training that gives your employee, more experience or a members-only research report that shares the latest insights on a given topic, there’s so much for your workplace to gain when you take advantage of the benefits professional organizations provide. – Abby D.

With this guidance from our SAers, do your research to find the best opportunities and organizations for you and your goals. Then, remember to utilize your membership to its potential by attending events, lunches or even volunteering for a leadership position.


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