By Deb Sharratt,
This week I start back to work properly in 2019, but taking the time during the first few days of the year, to look back at 2018 last week has really shown me how much commitment and effort I’ve put into developing myself both professionally and personally.
In addition to my day job as both a PR practitioner & lecturer, and a lifestyle blogger, in 2018 I’ve attended industry events and conferences, hosted a webinar for Vuelio, spoken at the Mojo Nation conference, written for the CIPR Influence online blog, organised the #CIPRNorthernConf, held the elected positions of Vice Chair and Social Media Manager for CIPR North East and organised the #PRideNE awards where I also won an award as Outstanding PR Practitioner in the North East.
CPD takes time and effort but is worth it. I started my Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) CPD after returning to work after maternity leave (at the time being on maternity leave didn’t exempt you from having to accrue CPD points – thankfully that has now changed and you can read the CIPR Maternity Leave Package here).
More Than A Label
After two years continuous CPD all CIPR members can attain Accredited Practitioner status. This is a status I’ve now retained for 5 years. But it’s much more than just a label and here is why.
1: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
It’s all too easy just to keep on doing the same thing all the time. No matter how successful you are at it. However to grow as a person and as a professional then you need to challenge yourself. In 2018 I spoke at a national conference for the very first time with a colleague. Yes it was nerve-wracking, yes it was quite scary. I was named and promoted as a speaker; and that felt really strange but also rewarding; however once I stepped onto the stage the nerves went.
Co-hosting a webinar for Vuelio was both an unnerving and exciting proposition. Not being able to receive any verbal or physical feedback from your audience as you speak really makes you think about what you are saying and doing. I was very glad when it was over but also very glad that I’d done it. My biggest tip is to make sure you are speaking about something you understand well, are passionate about and wiling to debate. The feedback after both sessions whether on stage or online were both big confidence boosters. Taking a ‘risk’ is a great way to grow.
2: Learn New Skills
Through blogging I have discovered so much about SEO and coding that I never would have learnt through my day job. The ethics of which are a daily challenge it has to be said, but my lifestyle blog has made me understand the skills and writing abilities required to enable my clients to perform better in this respect too. Over Christmas I’ve also re-branded, researched font trends for 2019, (outline fonts with their modern, industrial look makes brands look cutting-edge and mature – apparently), analysed the website data and evaluated the content in terms of readers wants and needs – all of which has taught me new skills.
3: Get Involved
Whether it is attending an event, volunteering on a committee or standing for election, getting involved with a professional body such as the CIPR is worth it. Aside from the personal and professional development, some of my closest friends are people I’ve met through volunteering with CIPR, who are a great support both personally and professionally. We all need people to lean on from time to time. Yes they are colleagues, but more than colleagues, they are people with similar values, aims and objectives to you, who understand what you do on a day to day basis, which makes for better mutual understanding all round.
4: Join the Conversation
Many people, including me can be quite hesitant about joining online discussions and debates. Especially on Twitter where females are regularly verbally attacked just for having an opinion. I’ve facilitated Twitter chats before for CIPR North East however joining in other established chats is not so easy, especially when you don’t personally know the other regular participants. In 2018 I’ve joined in with Ella Minty’s #PowerandInfluence, #UKBlogHour, #CommsChat, as well as #CIPR specific ones on #AIinPR.
These have not only helped me develop new relationships with PR professionals but also increased my knowledge and (hopefully) improved how I communicate on social media – well apart from posting cat gifs and retweeting Peanuts on this day tweets. Contact online forums and professional blogs too such as CIPR’s Influence Online and join the conversation there by offering to write for them too.
5: Give Back
Not everything we do in our careers has to be about earning money. Yes most of us need to earn a living but only doing things because you are being paid to do it isn’t always that healthy a mindset to have. Well not for me anyway. Choosing to take on a project or role without monetary reward is really beneficial and I wish I could afford to do it more often. Organising conferences, awards event and helping to support others is a great way to develop yourself, and when you can support those in need of vital help at the same time, such as encouraging donations to a local foodbank (an idea first suggested by Stephen Waddington that we’ve continued) or donations to the CIPR’s IPRovision at our awards night, makes it even more worthwhile.
Be Committed to Professional Development
Being independent means not having senior colleagues to learn from, to mentor us, to coach and challenge us. But we can still learn every day from clients and colleagues within the sector. So for me having a personal commitment to professional development is a must for independent practitioners to continue to deliver the best possible service to their clients. This is one of 9 key challenges I’ve identified in becoming a successful independent practitioner.
It all makes a difference and helps you grow personally and professionally. And in 2019 I’m really looking forward to joining CIPR Council.
Don’t forget if you are a CIPR member you have until 28 February 2019 to log at least 60 CPD points in this cycle.