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Professional development is key for success

17 Jun, 2020 Careers, Professional development

                                                  Professional development is key for success. Employers want communication professionals who keep developing their key skills. Recruiters are actively seeking to place internal communications professionals who are developing good business judgment and skills. These are among the top 10 most important skills and competencies employers want in their new comms staff, according to feedback in interviews with 10 global leaders in employee communication (The Next Level Global Report, 2018, page 125.)

Likewise, most practitioners (81%) interviewed in a major international survey believe in the need for constant improvement. Around 69% of practitioners believe that technological competence is important, but only 51% report highly developed competence in this area. This would tend to hold them back in their career, according to respondents in the 2020 European Communication Monitor survey, the world’s largest study of strategic communication and public relations.

Also, only about 7% of respondents intended to upskill themselves or their team in the coming year, according to the 2020 Gatehouse State of the Sector survey of 1,000 internal communication respondents in 45 countries. Entry-level communication professionals “need to improve their business skills and apply business acumen, including financial literacy, to their everyday job responsibilities.” About half of communicators are under-skilled in this key area: “Despite data handling being an important skill for all communicators, a lack of data competencies is particularly striking across all levels.”

Better skills – higher employee retention

Continuing professional development (CPD) involves so much more than simply staying ‘on the ball’ professionally; it is also a vital means of employee retention. LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report showed that 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if it invested in further employee learning. The interest in continual education is particularly strong among millennials and Gen Zers. Around a fourth of the former and 27% of the latter said that the number one reason they would leave a job is the feeling that there were no opportunities to grow and learn.

Why is further learning key for people working in communication?

For those working in communications, social media, and public relations, staying at the top of their game involves keeping up to date on the latest technological developments. The latter include but are not limited to artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and SEO software. Social media managers need not only worry about beautiful imagery and engaging content, but also about key SEO tools that enable them to conduct keyword searches, website audits, competitor analysis, backlink monitoring, and the like. Software is continually being updated, and often, correct utilization isn’t a matter of instinct. Rather, it requires training and, therefore, an investment of time and money. This is a powerful argument that professional development is key for success.

Differences in earnings

Further study can make a big impact on your earnings. With a Master’s degree in Communications, you can look forward to earning a median salary of $99,532 per year though top firms may pay even more. If you are already working, you may worry about not having enough time to study. These days, however, there are various options that can save you significant time and money. Some graduate and postgraduate degree programs are intensive; others can be studied part-time. The fastest way to get a bachelor’s degree is to opt for an accelerated distance course that is focused on subjects such as marketing, communications, or computer science. These will all count as credits if you wish to complete a Master’s further down the line.

Broadening your career opportunities

If you decide to pursue a postgraduate degree in communications, you will have a wider range of career paths to choose from. The tools and skills you learn will serve you well in a host of professions, including those of event planner, reporter, advertising executive, and communications manager. If in the past you were producing social media content or specializing in graphic design, a Master’s degree will show you have the key requirements you need to manage a team, oversee all communications between departments in a large company, and even set up an internal media hub.

Further learning opportunities are highly valued by younger generations of employees. Many would leave a company quickly, or simply not apply for a job at a company whose reputation for staff training and development is poor. In the past, completing a Master’s degree while studying was almost impossible owing to the need to attend courses in person. Today, however, online tools and accelerated programs have made it easier to get where you want to, faster.

Bring the joy of learning to your job

An interesting short item on “bringing the joy of learning to your job” was published recently as the Harvard Business Review’s “Management Tip of the Day.” Adapted from the 27 March 2020 HBR article, The Simple Joy of Learning, by Marc Zao-Sanders and Catalina Schvenger, the item offers several suggestions for people to consistently enjoy learning in their professional life:

We all know that thrilling feeling of learning something new — a new recipe, a new word in a foreign language, a new chord on the guitar. And yet, so many of us go through our workdays on autopilot without setting aside time to learn something new. How can you introduce the joy of learning into your professional life? Start by taking control of what you read to better yourself and your career. Pay attention to what genuinely interests you, rather than relying on a website’s algorithm for recommendations. Have an open mind about what “counts” as learning — you can find unexpected opportunities in movies, conversations with friends, speeches, or social media feeds. Finally, keep a list of what you’ve learned lately, how you’ve used that new knowledge, and what you hope to learn in the future. You’ll stay focused and motivated by tracking your progress and setting new goals. Taking these steps will help you take your professional learning and development into your own hands — and have some fun with it.

Food for thought! Engaging in these types of informal initiatives will help motivate people towards formal learning activities – to the benefit of their career, and hopefully their personal satisfaction. Readers also can note the articles and books available in this website for increasing understanding of business communication and management.

The takeaway

Professional development is key for success. This is the unanimous feedback from employers and recruitment firms. So the onus is on you to commit to professional development at any level to enhance your career prospects.

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash.

About Kim Harrison – author, editor and content curator

Kim Harrison, Founder and Principal of Cutting Edge PR, loves sharing actionable ideas and information about professional communication and business management. He has wide experience as a corporate affairs manager, consultant, author, lecturer, and CEO of a non-profit organization. Kim is a Fellow and former national board member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia, and he ran his State’s professional development program for 7 years, helping many practitioners to strengthen their communication skills. People from 115 countries benefit from the practical knowledge shared in his monthly newsletter and in his books available from

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