by Kathleen Donohue Rennie, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA, Associate Professor, New Jersey City University
If you’re like most public relations professionals, you have thought about the APR several times.
The “think about” process (as I found via completely informal research over my 10+ years as NJ accreditation chair and 17 years teaching/mentoring Seton Hall’s public relations students and alumni) typically follows mention of the APR at a Chapter event/meeting, the announcement that a Chapter member has earned his/her APR, or a glance at your resume for something “stand-out-ish.”
Nine times out of ten, the “APR think about” is quickly followed by the “APR roadblock.” Depending on where you are in your public relations career, the roadblock can take many forms.
For seasoned professionals, the APR roadblock presents as either the fear of “an embarrassing failure at this point in my career” or push back questioning such as “why do I need an APR at my advanced level?” At mid-career, while hungry to add “stand out” to the resume, professionals are starved for more hours. Your days are (very) long and the “real world” is advancing at a bewildering pace as you add (or ponder adding) engagement, marriage, kids, home-ownership, pets, and more to the day-to-day (“how will I fit in any time to study?”). While young professionals have the same time limits as all professionals, they tend to worry most about “readiness,” of not having what it takes to pass.
If you find yourself in “APR roadblock,” you might be interested in some of the following five suggestions to get around it and move forward.
Start Small: Avoid becoming overwhelmed by taking small steps. Download the application this week. Commit to responding to one Readiness Review questionnaire question every week. Don’t equate the APR process with painful college final exams. For this exam, you set the study schedule and the test date. Check the PRSA APR page for details.
Check Anxiety at the Door: The APR is a challenging test that can be re-taken if you don’t like the results. I know from experience that those who did not do well the first time around were no less professional or intelligent than those who passed on the first try. Most often, they simply were not as comfortable with the test’s format. If your anxiety comes from the “fear of an embarrassing failure,” you can avoid telling anyone you are going through the process or work to change your perspective (for instance, isn’t it more embarrassing not to take the challenge at this point in your career?).
Don’t Race: Self-improvement is not a race…it is a gift you give yourself. Create a study plan that is convenient for you, your career, your boss, your clients, your travel plans, your significant other, and anyone/anything that plays into your calendar in essential ways. Make the process work in the time you have to dedicate to it.
Take Tiny Bites: Take the study process topic by topic. When I teach APR classes, I divide the sessions into clear categories (History, Ethics, Theory, Research, Planning, etc). Creating study notes “in chunks” clarifies your path and alerts you to the areas in which you need to spend more time.
Surround Yourself With Good Teammates and Believers: Talk to people who have their APR about the experience, recruit them to help you (we will all say “yes!”). Find someone else who has thought about the APR and move through the process together.