Advice on getting qualified – just do it!

Laura Pinney is Digital, Brand and Communication Manager for Saint-Gobain in the UK and Ireland based in Coventry. She studied for the CIPR Specialist Diploma in Internal Communication with us at PR Academy and completed her studies alongside a demanding job and looking after her two year old son George. She is proof that learning can slot into a busy life.

"It was definitely a challenge and I got a sense of slight relief when I had finished but it was a huge accomplishment, something that I hadn’t got from learning for many years.”

Laura with George

“It was a long time since I focussed on my development,” she says. “I had gone on training courses sporadically but to actually commit to a qualification and spend time really learning was different. I decided if I was going to do it, I was going to do it properly and really commit to it.

Laura has worked in internal comms roles for a number of years, but felt that there was more she could be doing to underpin her experience and keep up with what was going on in the industry. “In the past few years I always had an excuse for putting it off,” she says. “Work, family, wedding, a two-year-old, netball! But it was always in the back of my mind to do a qualification and it was my husband who pushed me and told me to ‘just do it’.

Having not studied for a long time, I was a little apprehensive on day one as I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the tutors were incredibly warm and supportive. I came away from the first workshop feeling part of a community. I was learning with people who faced the same issues and challenges as me and it was great to chat in the breaks – I learned a lot from others on the course.

So how did Laura find the time to study? Here's her advice.

  • Be flexible. With a two year old it can be hard to plan, so I had to be flexible. When I had some free time I would grab it. Sometimes I would have an early night and sit up in bed reading. I also used the travel time down to London for the workshops to catch up on reading.
  • Find some space to study. I took myself off to my local library but it was a little noisy (full of little ones, ironically), also didn’t have a great choice of books, so I approached my local university who were happy to give me a temporary pass for the library. It was such a nice, peaceful environment that I could really lose myself in there.
  • Ask for help from your employer, friends and family. Sometimes with a little one, you just need a few hours break to focus.
  • Don’t leave it too late. I made a good start preparing for my assignment and then in the final weeks before it was due I crammed a lot in. In hindsight, I could have spread the studying out more evenly over the months.
  • Also, ask for help from your tutor – Kevin was really supportive and responsive – even to the questions I thought were silly ones.
  • Take a break from everything when you need to – even if only a short one - a walk, a hot bath. It will clear your mind ready to go again.
  • Remember that it is absolutely achievable. The length and pace of the course makes it do-able. It is challenging of course, but then that’s what makes it worthwhile.

Laura’s final piece of advice?

“Don’t procrastinate! I kept putting it off, but wish I had done  it sooner. It has given me greater confidence, particular when being able to apply my learnings – something I’ve already enjoyed being able to do since completing the diploma earlier this year. I’ve also got the study bug and I’m looking forward to exploring what’s next (just don’t tell my husband that yet!)

Find out more about studying for a professional qualification with PR Academy

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About the author

Ann Pilkington

Ann is a co-founder of PR Academy, a leading provider of public relations and communication education.  Her special areas of interest are internal communication and project communication.

Ann leads PR Academy’s CIPR internal comms certificate.


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