The first year of your agency career is a whirlwind. You’re tasked with learning your firm’s operations, understanding its clients and most importantly, mastering those basic but foundational PR skills. It takes months of practice to truly grasp and settle into all of the newness around you. But what happens when you’ve hit that one year mark in your career and those tasks that once seemed daunting are now a breeze? How can you continue to advance in your creativeness and gain new skills? Here are three easy, practical steps any junior level professional can implement immediately to grow their strategic thinking and elevate their overall quality of work:

Seek Out Professional Development Opportunities

While professional development naturally occurs as you rack up years in the industry, there are also countless opportunities available now - workshops, webinars and on-demand trainings to name a few. Taking the initiative to sign up for one of these trainings is a fantastic way to gain new insights and hear what others are doing to enhance a particular skill. LinkedIn and PRSA offer classes each month on a variety of topics. A few of my favorites include: Brand Reputation and Crisis ManagementEarned Media Tips for a New Era and Future Trends of PR and Communications. Once you’ve taken these classes, you can identify opportunities within your own agency where these newly acquired skills and insights are applicable. It goes a long way when you take ownership over your professional development.

Find a Mentor 

As PR professionals, we are in the business of relationship building, but often we forget to foster our own professional relationships. In college the importance of mentorship is emphasized as a means of getting your professional start, but I would argue it’s equally important to have a mentor no matter the stage of your career. It’s easy to doubt your skills or have a classic case of imposter syndrome, but having a professional sounding board always helps center those doubts. Building a trusting relationship with someone who has years of industry experience will provide a safe space to ask questions, throw out new ideas and get their strategic counsel on how to chart the best path forward . It can be scary to try something new, but knowing you have the support of a seasoned professional is the perfect confidence boost.

Take On the Daunting Tasks

Gaining new skills comes from putting yourself out there and a willingness to say yes. Depending on the account, tactics often repeat themselves (monthly blogs, case studies, newsletters etc.). On one hand this is a fantastic opportunity to master a certain type of content creation, but it doesn’t leave room for growth otherwise. This is why it is important to stay in constant communication with account leads and offer up your time when new tasks present themselves. If your manager knows you are looking for new opportunities within the account, they will likely give them to you as they come. Even if the tasks seem overwhelming, know that you have the support and knowledge of the team around you. You won’t be able to flex new muscles unless you try.

Hitting the one year mark in your professional career is a great point to stop and evaluate. It’s a time to look back on all that you’ve learned and set your sights on where you want to go next. Know that there are always opportunities waiting for you as long as you are open to them.