One Mentor is Not Enough – Build a Board of Directors

One mentor is not enough

There is no such thing as an ideal mentor.

That’s an idea it took me a long time to understand. Every person I had heard speak about mentoring spoke about their mentor as if he or she were a omniscient fairy godmother guiding them through life.

I tried finding that one person who would guide me through the ups and downs of my career, imagining teachers and professionals I admired as that go-to person, trying out formal mentoring programs to no avail.

Then I heard a take on mentoring that completely changed the way I looked at it – the idea that everyone should have their own personal board of directors filling that role of mentor and advisor.

It took a while for the ideas to stick, but when it did, it made so much sense. I don’t depend on just one person for advice in any other area of my life, why would I expect one person fill that need professionally?

Like an organization needs a board full of people from different backgrounds with varied experiences and perspectives, so too do professionals. No lone person will have had the same exact experiences you will, so having a pool of trusted advisors will help you grow and develop in a variety of situations.

For your board of directors to be effective, your group needs to be varied. Having two people whose careers and lives mirror each other won’t necessarily be the most helpful to your development. Look for people in your life and your network who fill roles like:

  • Someone who’s career you admire
  • Someone who’s experience is similar to yours
  • Someone who is in your field, industry or niche
  • Someone who is not in your field, industry or niche
  • Someone who is at your experience level
  • Someone just a couple steps ahead of you experience-wise
  • Someone with a lot of experience
  • Someone who will help connect you to others to grow your own network

You don’t need to fill out your board of directors all at once – that will happen over time. You do need to make sure there is variety in who you’re approaching for advice, though. It may seem like quite an undertaking to find people, but I’m sure if you take a good look at your own network, your board of directors will begin to take shape.

Looking amongst your own circles makes a lot of sense when you think about it. For a mentorship to be successful, there needs to be trust, common values and common interests. A mentor needs to be someone you respect and with whom you mesh, so looking to people you already have a connection with is a great place to start.

If you feel there’s little variety in your network, try casting your net just a bit wider to your PRSA chapter, your alma mater’s alumni network and your network’s network. Asking to connect with strangers becomes a bit easier when you already know you have something in common.

One-on-one coaching like a traditional mentoring relationship may work for some, but it’s not the only way. Like any other relationship, a mentorship should grow and change over time. Being mentored is an ongoing process, not an accomplishment or item to check off along your career path. It’s something that takes work, time and dedication. And much like other things in your life – your relationships, your professional development, your own well-being – you get out of it exactly what you put into it.

Looking to learn more about building a successful mentoring relationship? Join us as we partner with the College of Fellows for Supercharge your career: How finding or being a mentor can transform your professional development, a webinar to discuss the ins and outs of mentoring. Register now.

(P.S. The first draft of this post contained an ode to my own personal board of directors –  a zany group of professionals who have helped guide me through my career. While everyone should have their own board of directors, no two groups will ever be identical and I think it’s important for everyone to find what works for them. They know who they are and know how deeply I value them. However, the story of how our paths have crossed is one I’m always happy to tell to anyone who asks.)

Image uploaded from iOSIn her fourth year on PRSA’s New Professionals Section’s executive committee, Robyn serves as 2019 chair. She’s a native of southern New Jersey and currently resides in Washington, D.C., by way of Pittsburgh and South Carolina. Robyn currently works for Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA), a trade association representing North America’s airports, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and a master’s degree in media arts and technology, with a focus on creative media practices, both from Duquesne University. She likes to spend her spare time cooking, reading, exploring, crocheting and spending time with her tail-less cat, Izzy. Learn more about her on her website or find her on Twitter & talk to her!

New Year, New Job: Tips for Acing Your Job Search

new year, new job

As the year is winding down and a new one is just over the horizon, this is the time of year many of us spend in reflection. As you’re taking an objective look at what you’ve accomplished in your career over the last 12 months and where you’d like to take it in the next 12 or more months, you might come to the conclusion that it’s time to move on to something new. If you’re ready to search for your next adventure, keep reading for tips to make it a successful search.

  1. Have an idea of what you’re looking for in a job

Early in your career it’s easy to resort to the “see what sticks” approach when you’re looking for a job, particularly if you’re feeling desperate to get out of the job you have. Whatever you do, don’t let yourself get to that point of desperation before looking for a way out.

Now that that’s out of the way, here’s my argument for why applying to anything and everything is a bad idea: This early in your career, you should be focused on searching for jobs that do two things for you – strengthen your existing skills and help you learn and develop skills that you don’t have yet. Think about what you like about your current job and your strengths and keep those front of mind as you’re sorting through job descriptions and applying. If you’re spending time searching through generic “public relations” or “communications” results, opening, reading and applying to most, if not all, you’re wasting a lot of time. Focus your search on things you’re actually interested in and a potential good fit for, you’ll have more success in landing interviews and offers. Every new job you take shouldn’t feel like starting over or reinventing the wheel, but rather building on the career you’ve already begun.

  1. Scour your network

You may not feel like you have enough of a network to dip into when early on in your career. That’s common, but wrong. Think of all the things you are or have been a part of – your university, PRSSA, your sorority or fraternity, other on campus organizations, your hometown, etc. – and start there. Look at alumni of your university, Greek organization and other organizations, and members of your local PRSA chapter for professionals in your field, doing a job you’re interested in or working at an organization and reach out. You’ll find that many professionals – even if you’ve never met them – are more than willing to help young pros get their feet in the door, learn and share their experiences and wisdom. Build your network by making these connections.

  1. Build up your connections before you need them

Speaking of connections… So you’ve found some interesting people in your network and you’re writing that first email to them. “Hi, I’m looking for a job. Can you help?” is not the first email you should send to anyone. Instead, start building your network as soon as you can by cultivating relationships with others in the field. Schedule coffee or informational interviews with professionals to learn more about their organizations, their careers and to ask for advice on landing a job in your city. If you’re meeting for coffee, always, always, always pay for their coffee. It’s the least you can do.

After your meeting, send a quick thank you note or email thanking them for their time and insight. You can also ask them for a follow-up or any lingering questions you didn’t get to ask. A thank you is non-negotiable and should be done promptly for every person who takes the time to interview you or meet with you to help you along in your career. Any time someone spends time helping you develop professionally, make sure to thank them with a quick, personal email or handwritten note, including a particular mention of something specific from the conversation.

  1. Ask for help

You’ve built up relationships with professionals in your network. Now you can ask them for help in your job search, with a couple of caveats. You cannot ask them to get you a job. You can ask them to introduce you to someone in their network. You can ask them for tips on interviewing. You can ask them for some insight into a job you’re applying for at their organization. You can ask them to share jobs with you that they see shared in their networks or that may come across their desks. Whatever favor you’re asking for, you must be direct and specific. Except for asking them to get you a job.

  1. Do your research

As mentioned in #1, knowing what you’re looking for is the key to a successful job search and good, solid research is at the heart of that.  Researching possible jobs will help you to determine what you’re interested in and would be the best fit for your skills. Researching people in the jobs you’re interested in, whether in the immediate future or further down your career path, will help you to nail down the skills you need to build and the achievements you should work towards. Researching the organizations you’re interested in – by scouring their website, scheduling informational interviews and making connections within the organization – will give you insight into the culture and what makes a successful candidate for possible openings, as well as helping you ace the interview when it comes time.

  1. Keep your web presence in tip-top shape

I’m sure you’ve heard this time and time again, but it’s important to make sure your virtual self is an accurate representation of you. You should make a habit of auditing your social media and taking care to make sure you have a place on the web to showcase your work. Think of it as a Spring Cleaning for your virtual presence and do it with each season. When you’re job searching, it’s especially important to make sure everything that represents you is in perfect shape because that’s the first impression most potential employers will have of you, along with your resume.

Finding and landing a new job can be a daunting task, whether you’re a new pro or experienced. Putting your best foot forward and making sure you’re as prepared as possible will help ease the stress and make sure your first job sets your career off to a stellar start.

Image uploaded from iOSIn her third year on PRSA’s New Professionals Section’s executive committee, Robyn serves as 2018 chair-elect. She’s a native of southern New Jersey and currently resides in Washington, D.C., by way of Pittsburgh and South Carolina. Robyn currently works for Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA), a trade association representing North America’s airports, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and a master’s degree in media arts and technology, with a focus on creative media practices, both from Duquesne University. She likes to spend her spare time cooking, reading, exploring, crocheting and spending time with her tail-less cat, Izzy. Learn more about her on her website or find her on Twitter & talk to her!

Member Spotlight: Rachel Brown

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Name: Rachel Brown
Position/Company: Public Relations Specialist, Albany State University
Location: Albany, Ga
Education: Public Relations and Integrated Media double major, Columbus State University
Social Media Handle: @rachelbrownpr

How and when did you first become interested in PR and communications?
My sophomore year of college as an Integrated Media major, I had to take Introduction to Public Relations. I fell in love with the field while learning about tactics and strategy to help people or brands come together.

How did you find internships/jobs?
I had three internships and I found them thought the Department of Communication at Columbus State. Business’s in the area reach out to departments and professors all the time and it is so smart to ask your college about what is available.

As for jobs, PRSA offers a job search that is easy to use and the options are endless.

What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
Going from a small firm working in tourism to higher education, I had to really change my focus. The audience got bigger, the communication channels changed and I had to learn how to balance fun and corporate strategies.

I read blogs and did research on higher education public relations to understand what other universities are doing and how I could makes positive changes within my department. Also, immersing myself into the history and culture. That is important in our field because we are speaking for that brand.

What has been the most valuable thing you have learned through classes or experience?
Set objectives and evaluate everything. You won’t be able to know how well something is working if you are not measuring the results.

What has been the best piece of advice you have received?
It is better to undersell and over perform than to oversell and under perform.

Do you have any advice for future PR pros?
Get a mentor.  Never stop learning: There are countless ways to learn after you graduate with webinars, text books, blogs, twitter chats and more! Intern in different settings before you choose what type of company you would like work at. Never post on social about what’s trending until you have done the proper research. Get an AP Style Guide and study it like a religion.

What do you think is the best benefit of PRSA and the New Pros section?
My favorite benefit of PRSA is the conferences. It’s the perfect way to network and learn. Use the tools that PRSA has available to you to further your professional development.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before starting your career?
Project management and organization skills are a must. There are times I am working on over 30 projects at once, whether they are big or small and without organization the little things get lost in the details. The little things are important.

Tell us a little-known fact about yourself.
I name my animals after Disney Characters.

If you are interested in being featured, or interested in nominating someone to be featured as a part of our #MemberSpotlight, please complete the following form.

 

Member Spotlight: Emma Finkbeiner

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Name: Emma Finkbeiner
Position/Company: Integrated Marketing Coordinator, Chicago Cubs
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Education: Public Relations & Journalism, BS, Northern Michigan University
Public Relations & Advertising, MA, DePaul University
Social Media Handle: @efink101

How and when did you first become interested in PR and communications?
My freshman year of college I declared a communications major. I enjoyed my classes but was feeling unsure of what a career with a communications degree looked like. My adviser at NMU suggested I consider switching to pubic relations and showed me the variety of career paths it offered. Not only that, he introduced me to PRSSA as well, which helped me further understand the profession, and I got involved right away.

How did you find internships/jobs?
Primarily through networking. By getting involved in PRSSA and taking on leadership roles, I was able to travel to events all over the country and meet so many people. I would say all of my internships and jobs have been touched in some way by a connection I made through PRSSA, whether this person wrote me a recommendation, worked for the organization or just told me about the opportunity.

What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge so far was moving into a marketing function with my background being primarily public relations and journalism. However, my master’s degree helped me to grow my knowledge while I started this position and my skills were definitely transferrable. I also wasn’t afraid to ask a lot of questions and took time to expand my skillset by diving in when opportunities to work on something I wasn’t yet an expert in presented themselves.

What has been the most valuable thing you have learned through classes or experience?
Both my classes and professional experience taught me how to work in teams and how to become a creative problem solver. My classes were primarily project based, allowing me to work with teams of fellow students to take a client challenge and turn it into an opportunity. In my professional experience, I have always collaborated with others.

What has been the best piece of advice you have received?
Not to take things personally, to be resilient and to never stop learning.

Do you have any advice for future PR pros?
I value hard work tremendously and have always been willing to go the extra mile, but work-life balance is so important. Bring your best self to work every day, but remember that you are a human being and take time to do things in your personal life that you enjoy.

What do you think is the best benefit of PRSA and the New Pros section?
The supportive network of professionals. Most of my mentors I met through PRSA and I also really value all of the things I have learned from my peers in the New Pros section. Whether you’re looking for a new job, navigating the transition from student to professional or are just looking for a group of like-minded people, PRSA and PRSA New Pros provides that and so much more.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before starting your career?
I really only wish I had known about this industry sooner! I loved participating in high school outreach sessions when I was a member of PRSSA because I saw so many students’ faces light up when they were introduced to the public relations profession. Continuing to educate students in high school that this career path is an option is so important so that they can choose from schools with great programs that have PRSSA chapters, which allow them to get involved in their professional development on a deeper level.

Tell us a little-known fact about yourself.
I’m not sure if I would call this a “little-known” fact, but I am absolutely obsessed with my 2-year-old pitbull Addison. She even has her own Instagram account – @addisonbully!
If you are interested in being featured, or interested in nominating someone to be featured as a part of our #MemberSpotlight, please complete the following form.

 

Member Monday: Greg Rokisky

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Name: Greg Rokisky
Position/Company: Marketing Manager, Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB)
PR/Social Media Freelancer
Location: Lansing, Michigan
Education: Michigan State University
Social Media Handle: @GregRokisky

How and when did you first become interested in PR and communications?
I usually tell people I literally stumbled into PR but, the truth is, I think fate played a much bigger role than I let on. I always loved writing and storytelling in grade school and had a penchant for being heavily involved with student government. After becoming my residence hall’s president my sophomore year, I got involved with MSU’s campus wide Residence Halls Association executive board. I wound up the Director of PR and, shortly after, I landed my first official PR internship. The rest started to fall into place from there.

How did you find internships/jobs?
My curiosity is simultaneously my biggest strength and weakness. I always look for things that interest me in places that might not be where others are looking. I worked for the on-campus food service chain at MSU, Sparty’s. After doing my time frying chicken tenders and flipping burgers in one of the sites within the residence halls, I applied for an HR role that eventually transformed into a communications role. When it came to most of my jobs, they came about based on where I wanted to grow my skills—one was at the company I was interning, the next a full-time opportunity working remotely and my current role as a manager to broaden my traditional marketing and nonprofit experience. Be curious…you never know the answer if you don’t look around and ask questions.

What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
It’s one I’m still facing—I have unrealistic expectations to produce perfect results every time, both from myself and others. Perfect rarely happens. Sometimes, you won’t be even 60% happy with your work but it’s what you can do given deadlines, resources, time, etc. I just remind myself that sometimes I’ll outperform what I expected and others I’ll underperform and hopefully, in the end, they all balance each other out. It reminds me of a new book I just started, where the author suggests we stop trying to be well-balanced and, instead try to be well-lopsided people.

What has been the most valuable thing you have learned through classes or experience?
The most valuable things I’ve learned in life, professionally and personally, have come through doing. Therefore, it’s all about saying yes to as much as you can lopsidedly balance and put yourself in slightly uncomfortable positions throughout life…probably forever. I’m a huge proponent of learning and believe education, however you choose to define it, should be a lifelong process.

What has been the best piece of advice you have received?
Relationships, sincere relationships, truly matter—and not only if you’re in PR. Being in PR certainly helps nail down the importance of relationships, but I can’t even count how many times my relationships have led to something. My freelance work has all come from relationships I’ve built. My PRSA involvement, locally and nationally, have come from my relationships. Jobs and recommendations have come from relationships. Some of the best memories, laughs, professional conversations have been had because of the time I’ve put into my relationships. Jobs don’t get us through tough times, people do; we should spend more time appreciating our relationships (makes note to self).

Do you have any advice for future PR pros?
Everything is becoming more and more integrated and data-heavy. Don’t be afraid of Excel.

Seriously…math and data are your friend.

What do you think is the best benefit of PRSA and the New Pros section?
It goes back to the relationships, in part, and also the opportunity to get your name out there. Not many industries can you begin your career and be able to join a group that allows you to contribute your insight to a national blog (insert shameless plug to write for PRSA New Pros blog, The Edge). That, paired with the opportunity to enjoy catered professional development and networking with other new professionals in your field going through similar struggles, wins, losses and the like is priceless in my book.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before starting your career?
That oftentimes trying to be what you think professional success should look and act like proves to be way less valuable and effective than embracing the magic of who you actually are.

Tell us a little-known fact about yourself.
My favorite existing animal are penguins; my favorite non-existing animal is a unicorn (although they exist in my heart). Despite having neither as a pet, I do love my dog Fitzgerald—named simultaneously after F. Scott Fitzgerald and President Fitzgerald Grant III from Scandal.
If you are interested in being featured, or interested in nominating someone to be featured as a part of our #MemberSpotlight, please complete the following form.