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Investing in professional development and continuing education is critical for professionals who want to enhance their skills. It’s also a necessity for better client service. This belief reminds me of a favorite and well-known quotation from poet William Butler Yeats: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” To me, this quotation captures that education isn’t static. It’s not something that stops when school ends. Education is a life-long effort and one that requires ongoing work. As professionals, we have a variety of professional development and educational opportunities available to us, especially in the form of professional certifications.¬†Whether working at an agency and serving clients externally or in-house and collaborating with internal stakeholders, professional certifications showcase your commitment to your profession and demonstrate that you continue to hone and refine your craft, which in turn benefits internal and external clients.

As a firm, Commonwealth Partnerships has a strong commitment to professional development and continuing education. That support manifests itself in many ways. Volunteer leadership and participation in trade groups, such as PRSA or the Urban Land Institute, is valuable for networking and learning from peers. Attending conferences, such as the International Builders Show, or smaller workshops provide insight on industry trends and tools that can then be applied to our daily work.

We’re committed to constantly striving to learn more. As Yeats noted, it’s about the lighting of a fire. We want to keep that fire burning strong for many years to come. Perhaps the best examples of the value of this ongoing professional education and development are certifications. These certifications offer intensive programs to help develop new skills. Certifications also differentiate you from many other professionals in your industry. They underscore that you are among the top echelon of professionals and have an enduring dedication to your field.

Members of our firm have participated in a number of certifications, including the American Marketing Association’s Professional Certified Marketer (PCM) program and the Public Relations Society of America’s Accredited in Public Relations (APR) and Reputation Management Certificate programs. As part of the process to earn my APR and PCM, I learned invaluable lessons and gained a deeper understanding of my profession. As strategic communications continues to evolve rapidly and take an increasingly important — and needed — role in executive decision making, those professionals who push themselves to keep learning will stand apart by providing thoughtful and indispensable counsel.

Ultimately, as the headline of this blog post suggests, it all comes back to client service. As communications professionals, we have to show our value to our clients. Providing exceptional customer service and delivering tangible results are two such ways to demonstrate that value. Those professionals who make a commitment to professional development and continuing education will be the ones who provide the most innovative and successful services. I’m proud to be part of a firm that shares my dedication to learning as the lighting of a fire and will help me keep that fire burning bright for years.