We all know the importance of continuous personal learning and development and staying up to date in our industry. And January is a great time to start planning and booking in learning and development activities in line with your beefy objectives for the year ahead. Many training providers will be announcing new dates and organisations shouting about their latest events.
Whatever your position – whether freelancer or employee – you’ll want to select learning and development options carefully so that they align with your needs and interests, diary and time available, budget and personal learning style preferences.
Here are a few tips to help you plan and maximise the return on investment when it comes to personal development and training:
If you're reading this, then there's a good chance that you work in PR and communications and are a member of the PRCA.
Check out your professional membership benefits – is there a training session included or are there other relevant workshops or events? Sign up to receive email alerts or follow your organisation on social media so that you don’t miss local events.
Last year, thanks to the PRCA Refer A Friend scheme, I was able to attend a free webinar with PRCA Fellow Steve Dunn (the referring freelancer got access to a webinar of their choice too). Win, win!
Do you know whether you are a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner? Each of us has a learning style in which we learn the most efficiently. Knowing whether you are an extrovert or introvert, will also help you to choose the right learning and development opportunities.
As an introvert, I look for "in person" training sessions that are in small groups and a maximum of half day blocks. This means that I can recharge my batteries afterwards and have the rest of the day to work on client projects. A few months ago I attended Nellie PR’s “PR that PAYS” Pitch Craft training workshop in Bristol. All about how to pitch to the media and secure high profile press coverage, the owner of Nellie PR, Ellen Carroll, was happy to provide reassurance that the training would be in a small group of no more than nine and that break-away activities would be on our own or with a partner. Working with such a supportive and enthused group on the day made for a refreshing change from online training in my cosy office of one – it was great to connect with others and spark ideas.
Attending a local event to hear an expert give a talk on a relevant topic you can be a good way to learn and connect with peers.
A lot of people shy away from networking events and if this is you, can you try turning it on its head – go to the events that you are most interested so that learning is now the primary objective and networking is secondary. Eventbrite and Meetup are useful directory websites to find business events in your local area.
Hands up. What can you remember from the business book you read three weeks ago? What about the training course you attended last September? A good trainer will ensure you take away actions to practice your new skills and may invite you to follow up with them. For example, following the aforementioned Pitch Craft workshop, tutor Ellen invited course participants to send over a draft pitch submission on which she would provide feedback and join her PR that PAYS private Facebook group.
There may be additional items that you can initiate to leverage your new skills:
- Promote your attendance at an upcoming industry event on social media and/or live tweet useful nuggets of wisdom from the event itself;
- Write up a blog post from the event and publish it on your website or pitch the organiser of the event about writing a review;
- Contribute some of your new learnings in a podcast that you are a guest on;
- Buddy up with an event delegate to work on your new skills together and/or to have accountability.
Don’t forget to mark a future date or dates in your diary to return to your notes, to track the actions and to practice your new skills. Furthermore, taking the time to log your Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities can help you to better track the new knowledge you have picked up over the course of the year.
Alison Hadley is a PR and marketing freelancer who works with PR consultants and marketing consultants on a flexible outsourced basis when they want to scale their business. Go to: alisonhadley.co.uk.