Are Professional Organizations an Antiquated Notion?

I’ve seen posts and heard discussions for a while now about the value of professional memberships. I find it interesting that this is such a debate, but it also made me think about my own memberships. Throughout my career, I’ve been a member of various communication organizations, and I remain an active member of the Public Relations Society of America.

I’ve been a strong proponent of professional memberships for a very long time, but I’m also someone who will tell you that your membership is what you make of it. Whether or not the company you work for pays your annual dues and local membership fees shouldn’t matter. What should matter is whether or not you find value in the professional relationships you build through the organization? Are you finding leadership opportunities that will help hone your skills and make you a better communications professional?

When I hear people question the validity of professional organizations in this age of social media, I get a little irritated. Yes, there are plenty of wonderful networking opportunities online and via social sites such as Twitter, Facebook and others. However, nothing equates to the face-to-face relationships I’ve built through PRSA, IABC and other organizations. Our online presence should not trump our offline relationships.

Now, back to the question about whether there is value in professional organizations. I strongly believe there is value. However, that value comes from your involvement. You cannot expect to attend meetings and periodically participate in professional development programs and receive 100 percent return on your investment. You must get involved by volunteering your time and talents to committees, chapter leadership, national projects and more. When calls for volunteers are made — and I guarantee this occurs more than once in a year — step up. Get involved. Find something you’re passionate about and help your local or national organization improve the experience for all members. If you’re sitting back waiting for someone to ask your opinion, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

My involvement in professional organizations has led me to great friends, amazing mentors, career opportunities, leadership development, and so much more. My network of professional colleagues has expanded with online social channels but there is nothing that compares to the relationships I’ve built through professional organizations.

What are your thoughts?

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Making a List, Checking it Twice

A few weeks ago, I asked readers of this blog and contacts on Twitter for input on time management techniques. The overwhelming majority of responses indicate most people best manage their time on a daily basis by making lists. I too am a big fan of making lists. I feel a great deal of accomplishment at the end of the day when I look at my list and see check marks or crossed off items on that piece of paper.

I also find that making a list each day or week to indicate what I need to get done is a good way of decluttering my life. Much like clutter on my desk creates chaos in my mind, not having a clear direction to follow for projects decreases my productivity.

A tip someone shared with me years ago to help with decluttering my workspace was intended to help clear stacks of paper off my desk. Every time you move a piece of paper, make a small “X” in the corner. If you get to three “Xs” on the paper, force yourself to do something with it — whether that be trashing it or placing it in a file. If you don’t act, then you’ll simply continue moving it from stack to stack.

What other decluttering tips do you have? Would love to hear them.

Grad Degrees: To Do or Not to Do?

Last night, a group of my PRSA Tulsa colleagues and I made the short trek to Stillwater to participate in a panel discussion for the OSU PRSSA chapter. It was an educational experience for me. The turnout was fantastic and the group asked some smart, insightful questions. But, as with any opportunity to speak with the next generation of PR professionals, it made me start thinking.

The question came up about whether a masters’ degree is needed in the business world, and, if so, which degree program is the best. I’m just one person with an opinion but here are my thoughts. As an MBA student, I highly recommend pursuing an advanced degree. However, which path you choose depends entirely on your career goals.

Initially I began a masters’ program in Mass Communication because I believed that was the right path for me as a PR professional. After several semesters of studying communication theories and integrated marketing strategies, I realized that my career goals actually made more sense for an MBA. With an undergrad degree in Journalism, the lack of finance and business classes left me lacking in my ability to communicate with CEOs and other senior management colleagues.

I challenge anyone considering a masters’ program to seriously think about where you want your career to be five, 10 years down the road. Do you see yourself teaching communication classes at a local university? Or do you see yourself as VP at a PR firm or corporation? That plays a big part in which degree program makes the most sense in my opinion.

What are your thoughts?

Words or Outcomes: Which is Most Important?

Today’s announcement of President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize took me and many other people by surprise. Historically, most of us believed that this was an award of accomplishment, recognizing tangible outcomes in the world’s peace movements. In this case, it appears to have been awarded based on promises and words instead.

Now this is not a post about political viewpoints. Instead the announcement made me start thinking about the business world and how recognition occurs for many of us in corporate jobs. I’m not alone in finding that there are times when words and promises become far more important than outcomes, am I? This bothers me. I’m amazed at how many organizations don’t have the right metrics in place to determine the success or failure of marketing campaigns, product launches or productivity initiatives. There might be revenue targets associated with products or productivity but not much more. What tracking mechanisms are in place to determine progress being made? Are there gates in place where the company does a check and correct, adjusting mid-course if necessary to ensure that the programs are successful?

Am I wrong in believing that outcomes should be the ultimate goal? Or do I need to change my opinion and begin thinking in terms of words and promises? What do you think?

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is breast cancer awareness month, if you weren’t already aware. I don’t share this story often, but it’s important for women of all ages to take their breast health seriously. I feel compelled to share my story publicly to encourage you to

I was 25, relatively young in breast health years, when I started having problems. My doctor referred me to the breast health center at Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa where I underwent my first mammogram and a needle biopsy. Very scary for me knowing my family history. I had a great aunt on my mother’s side of the family pass away from breast cancer and an aunt on my father’s side of the family choose a double mastectomy as her treatment program for breast cancer. Fortunately I didn’t have cancer, but rather had calcium build-up in milk ducts, which they removed. Now 10 years later, I have an annual mammogram and watch things very carefully to ensure the family history doesn’t creep up on me.

I encourage you to conduct regular self-exams and if you find anything abnormal, please do not be afraid to seek medical care. Early detection saves lives.

It’s All About Timing

stop-watchI’m learning a valuable lesson lately about time management. I like being busy but it’s very easy to stretch myself too thin and I’m reaching that point … very quickly. I’m realizing that it really is OK to say “no” if necessary. Between a full-time job, numerous volunteer projects, freelance work, family life and more, there are times when I just don’t have time to actually get anything done. The ability to manage my time and focus on the areas that need to be handled on a given day are critical for my success personally and professionally.

Time management is a skill that I’ve worked on my entire life, but have yet to master. I would love to hear your time management tips. What advice would you give to someone trying to juggle many projects at once?