What ways can an out-of-work PR professional maintain professional growth during this economic downturn?

If you are out of work, obviously your top priority is to find a new job. However, you're wise to focus on maintaining your professional development given the rapid changes that occur in our industry.

If you are out of work, obviously your top priority is to find a new job. However, you're wise to focus on maintaining your professional development given the rapid changes that occur in our industry. If you are a member of trade groups such as the PRSA (or a local chapter), Institute for Public Relations or others, these organizations all offer a variety of professional development seminars, which, in addition to keeping your knowledge base current, offer opportunities for networking. If you are not already doing so, volunteer to serve on a committee for these groups, as this will help you keep up with trends in the industry--and, of course, create more networking opportunities.

While many firms have cut back and downsized, there may be opportunities for freelance assignments; therefore, you should market yourself to your contacts as well as prospects (LinkedIn and Facebook, among other such sites, offer an inexpensive and simple way to get started). Remember that freelance work can lead to permanent employment while keeping your skills sharp. Finally, continue to follow the news on a daily basis, particularly news that relates to your area of specialization, and read the trade publications.

Steve Seeman is a VP at Makovsky & Company

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