Public relations is a field in which classroom knowledge can only take you so far and internships show you various aspects of the day-to-day grind at an agency or corporation. However, a mentor is what gives a new professional a competitive advantage in the industry.
Mentoring goes far beyond asking advice on how to write the perfect press release or pitch a reporter, but rather focuses on how to develop your career as a public relations professional and how to succeed in the industry.
When selecting a mentor, do not treat the relationship as an employment agency or your mentor as an HR advisor, but instead look at your mentor as a wise adviser who can offer valuable advice on decision-making, workplace politics, challenging situations and overall career guidance based on their own experiences.
Below are several tips for new professionals as they consider the importance of mentoring and how a mentor can be their competitive advantage.
It’s no secret that a 9-to-5 schedule seldom exists in the PR world, but there are times when a new professional needs to unplug, unwind and have a life outside of work. When selecting a mentor, it is not a bad idea to choose a mentor who has mastered the balance of work-life integration. If you decide once your career is established that you would like to make life changes like get married or balance a family and a career, a mentor who has a similar experience is an invaluable asset.
Advancing Your Career
Mentoring is a vital resource for professional development. Having a mentor can help you define an effective strategy to help you stand out within your company. The industry has changed drastically with the rise of digital and social media, so finding a mentor who isn’t far removed from your experiences can provide solid career guidance in the context of the current PR landscape.
Birds of a Feather
In addition to finding someone you can emulate in your career, also make sure to look for someone with a similar or complementary personality and work style. You’ll click well with someone if you share hobbies and interests as well as overall professional goals, and this will help you establish a good relationship. You also want to seek a mentor you trust and know will keep things confidential. If you’re having a rough week and need to vent, it helps to have a mentor who will respectfully keep it between the two of you.
Time, Time, Time
As young professionals seek out advice, the key is time. Give yourself time to foster the relationship with your mentor. Good relationships don’t happen overnight. They take precious time to cultivate trust and respect. Respect their time as well, as most people don’t even have enough hours in the day to do everything they’d like.
Interested in starting a mentoring program in your local chapter? Or want to learn more about mentoring in PR? Check out the New Pros website (http://www.prsa.org/Network/Communities/NewProfessionals/) for key resources and materials to spread the word.
Brandi Boatner and Kate Enos are the PRSA New Professionals Section mentorship chairs.