I’m about to burst your bubble: If you assumed that learning should end once you leave the classroom or graduate, you’re sadly mistaken. Learning is everything, especially in public relations. PR Daily recently noted that having a passion for learning is one of the “must-have qualities for communications professionals.” I know learning can sometimes sound dreary and prolonged, but it doesn’t have to be. When I refer to learning, I don’t necessarily mean the regular or dry lecture style, slide-formatted, note-taking system we have all come to learn and live by as we climb the ladder of education. What I really mean is it’s imperative to submerge your mind in industry happenings through news, social media, television or whatever fits your lifestyle. The best part about PR is that it doesn’t require a two-hour lecture. It really just requires you to fully engage in experiential learning opportunities (ELOs), which by The University of Alabama’s definition, is an in-depth experience related to one’s academic area of study. Whether you choose to do so through reading, listening or applying topics to practical situations, actively engaging your mind in outside experiences is how you can develop the innovative and strategic thought process PR pros own. Below are three tips to help you activate experiential learning outside of the classroom:
Read. Now this is probably a given, but actively reading about trends and tips is a great way to stay current, and it’s super easy. Try finding a few industry-related news outlets and dedicate 15-20 minutes each day to read through the top stories. My personal favorites are PR Daily and UA’s very own, Platform Magazine.
Get involved. If you had Mr. Little for APR 300, you already know the importance of getting involved, so I apologize in advance for the repetition. But people, get involved. Finding a student organization (like PRSSA) to get involved in is the best way to expose yourself to what’s going on outside of the classroom, enabling you to listen, discuss and learn about relevant PR topics.
Find a mentor. If you’re one of those people who learn best from listening to others, the PRSSA peer mentoring program is for you. A mentor can take many shapes and forms; they can be industry professionals, teachers or even students just like you. PRSSA’s program provides younger, less experienced students the opportunity to network with older students who can offer valuable insight and guidance. When you surround yourself with accomplished and involved individuals, there’s almost nothing you can’t learn.
It’s time to stop dreading the act of learning, but to start embracing it. A desire to learn is what drives today’s fast-paced media environment, and suggests the admirable trait of curiosity. As physicist William Pollard once said, “Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”
By Skylar Spencer, VP of Finance