Mastering your craft and dreaming of sushi

Angie Hempel, APR
Angie Hempel, APR

Director, Strategic Services

While mastery of any sort of skill or craft is a lifelong pursuit, especially for those of us in creative fields, we can take steps to hone our skills, become adept at best practices and even innovate in our fields.  

Read books and articles.

Visit your nearest library, check out some books from your industry and study experts online.

Listen to podcasts and watch videos.

If you don’t know how to do something, chances are there’s a podcast and a YouTube video about it.

Take classes.

Enroll in a class at your local community college, apply for graduate school or sign up for an online certification.


Little steps and exercises each day can add up to big knowledge.

Another way to master your craft is to go for an accreditation. Offered through professional associations, accreditations are an acknowledgment from your peers that you’ve demonstrated both a high level of expertise and an extraordinary commitment to the profession. 

In public relations, the gold standard is the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR). According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the organization that offers the APR, only five percent of PR practitioners achieve this credential.

The process is tough and demanding, and can take a solid year to complete. It starts by applying. Candidates are recommended to have at least 5 years of experience in the profession, and have had a strategic leadership role on at least one project. Once the application is accepted, the candidate is tasked with filling out a detailed questionnaire and creating a case study presentation, to be given in front of a panel of current APRs. The presentation lasts anywhere from one to two hours, and it’s the panelists’ job to make sure you’re ready for the next step, which is the test. The test has approximately 162 questions and can take up to 3 hours to finish.

At any point in the process, the step can be repeated if the candidate does not pass. As nearly any person with an APR will confirm, it’s a worthwhile experience, and more people should pursue it.

There’s a certain dignity and respect for the work when you study and master your chosen field. You honor those who paved the way for your generation, and you forge that path even farther for those who follow.

And you’re showing respect to your audience. Think about Jiro Ono, from the beloved Jiro Dreams of Sushi documentary, who strives for perfection in every aspect of the sushi he makes for his customers.

“Once you decide on your occupation … you must immerse yourself in your work,” he said. “You have to fall in love with your work.

While his relentlessness and focus are an extreme example, his mindset of continuous improvement, attention to detail and putting in the effort can apply to any profession.

One of the fascinating things about him is that he believes in simplicity. Mastering your craft doesn’t have to be complicated. Work with the best ingredients, sharpen your tools and honor your community. According to Jiro Ono, we have a social and spiritual obligation to do our best for the general welfare of our neighbors.

What would the world be like if we all loved our jobs, if we all were able to do and be our best? It starts with you.