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!

A Personal Brand: The Key to How New Professionals Rise to Leadership

Personal Branding

Having a personal brand is more than just creating a statement, it’s about your professional attitude.

This is one lesson I learned while at PRSA’s New Professionals Summit in New York City in August.

Emily Nichols-Mitchell, CEO of Accelerations Group and a certified executive coach, led an energized and interactive session titled “Create a Powerful Personal Leadership Brand to Gain Instant Credibility.”

Emily gave examples of famous personal brands, such as Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Oprah, explaining how they all have their own story of how they continue to achieve success.

She then asked us to consider what our brand story could be, such as a unique memory we have that inspires us to do what we love, and challenged us to think about how we can continue to edit our brand and use it in our professional careers.

Troy Thompson, who works at PRSA, thought the workshop proved very beneficial for everyone who attended.

“Emily’s branding workshop is ideal for professionals looking to strengthen their online presence,” Troy said. “Her sessions include best practices and examples that provide attendees with a clear road map for packaging themselves to achieve greater career success.”

Key Takeaways:

Improving your personal brand can benefit your job and online presence.
Brian Edmonds, Communications Specialist Associate at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, said, “Before Emily’s workshop, I never really paid close attention to what I wanted my brand to be or how it was being perceived. Afterwards, it was all I could think about. I now find myself considering how anything I do, whether work projects or updating my LinkedIn profile, will enhance or hurt my brand. I believe this attention to detail will be great for my career going forward.”

Ask friends what traits they would use to describe you.
“Your friends help build and personify your brand,” Emily said. She also offered recruiter tips for building an online brand, such as always editing your LinkedIn profile, broadening your network and strategizing your posts on outlets such as LinkedIn.

Everyone needs personal branding, no matter what career stage you are in.
“Employers are not only looking at your resume but how you portray yourself in conversation and online,” Hanna Porterfield, Chair of the PRSA New Professionals Section, said. “In a competitive job market, personal branding can help you stand out and provide the value you bring to a team. All new professionals should consider building a personal brand throughout their career just as they focus on building hard and soft skills within the industry.”

Jordan AppelJordan Appel is a member of PRSA and the PRSA New Professionals Section. He is an Associate at CommunicationsMatch, a New York-based start-up search engine. He is also a graduate of Rowan University. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn.

New Professional Spotlight: Shannon Nicholson

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Name: Shannon Nicholson
Job Role: Program Director, West Virginia University Office of Graduate Admissions
Education: B.S. Journalism, ’14, M.S. Data Marketing Communications, ’17 – WVU Reed College of Media
Social Media: @shannonicholson (Twitter) and @shannonpauline (Instagram)

How and when did you first become interested in PR and communications?

My first job in the industry was at a small, B2B advertising agency in Morgantown, WV. I was exposed to all facets of marketing: content development, direct email, digital advertising, media relations, social media, traditional media, and website design (to name a few). What I did not know before I started my Junior Account Manager position was the importance of tying campaigns to business goals, breaking down department silos, and utilizing collected data to be relevant and timely. Enter the Data Marketing Communications, fully-online, graduate program. This program allowed me to bridge my interest in the business-side of marketing and my growing expertise in the field.

How did you find internships/jobs?

As a WVU student and alumni, I have an amazing resource at my disposal- MountaineerTrak powered by the Career Services Center. MountaineerTrak was my first line of defense. During my years as an undergrad, the Reed College of Media hired a Director of Student Careers and Opportunities, Eric Minor. Eric’s weekly “opportunity” email quickly became my go-to resource. Eric is the perfect liaison between current students looking for experience and alumni looking to provide that experience as a way to give back to their alma mater.

What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced in your career? How did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge I have faced in my young career has been introducing new procedures, and strategies from the ground up. In my current role, I assumed that after six months and I’ll be like a well-oiled machine and have already implemented new strategies. I soon realized that implementation would take closer to one year. The next year will be spent analyzing, and the following year will be about growth and optimization. It is hard not to get ahead of myself and want to be at year three, today! Really, the biggest challenge is not trying something new, it is pacing myself to check one step off the list at a time. Devoting 110% to each step without getting ahead of myself and potentially losing sight of details that could later derail all that the team has worked towards. Slow and steady wins the race.

What has been the most valuable thing you have learned through classes or experience?

Differing experiences, bring perspective. In my Data Marketing Communications cohort, students had varying backgrounds in data, graphic design, marketing, sales, etc. Listening to each other’s viewpoints helped the entire cohort approach problems with an open mind.

What has been the best piece of advice you have received?

You won’t know unless you try.

Do you have any advice for future PR pros?

There are a lot of different ways to apply your marketing/PR knowledge. Don’t limit yourself to certain industries or titles. Today, there are more opportunities than ever to be creative with your knowledge.

What do you think is the best benefit of PRSA and the New Pros section?

I think the biggest benefit of the New Pros section is the opportunity for engagement and networking. PRSA boasts amazing partners, and communities for growth and learning. I was particularly drawn to the #NPPRSA Twitter chats. Twitter chats have been a great outlet to informally discuss specific topics with others in the industry. I have found that those who participate want to engage and share. Even simply reading through threads has helped open my eyes to areas outside of my expertise.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before starting your career?

You will never stop learning. When you think you know enough, there is always more. It is important to be vigilant about the changes within your field.

Tell us a little-known fact about yourself.

I have a Bengal Cat that is about 20 lbs, who acts more like a small dog than a cat.

This New Professionals spotlight is sponsored by West Virginia University. If you are a member of PRSA New Pros and interested in being featured, or interested in nominating someone to be featured as a part of our #MemberSpotlight, please complete the following form.

 

Four Ways Your PRSA Membership Can Help You Get Connected

PRSA can help you get connected

In the first five years of your career, there is a lot of information and experiences thrown at you. You’re trying to figure out your first few jobs, learn about various industries and communications functions, and make a mark for yourself. PRSA’s New Professionals section can help you get there through programming, networking and mentorship.

As PRSA National wrote, “A well-developed professional network can be a source of friendships, mentors and referrals. Your network can also provide objective insights for evaluating opportunities and problems. PRSA’s 21,000+ members are excellent resources for cultivating relationships with colleagues who can help advance your career. A solid network of valuable contacts is always valuable, now more than ever.”

Whether you’re a PRSA member that transitioned from PRSSA, a new member finding your way, or a prospective member, here are three key ways PRSA can help you get more in contact with your peers:

  1. Connect with PR pros in your industry sector (via PRSA Sections)
    Not all communication and public relations professionals face the same challenges. PRSA has 14 professional interest groups, known as Sections. Most Sections focus on a specific industry while a few of the Sections are geared toward career levels (such as New Pros!). Each Section focuses on common issues related to an area of practice or special interest and is dedicated to bringing its members important, relevant information regarding their area of interest. Beyond involvement in New Pros, it can be helpful to join the section relevant to your industry – such as nonprofit, financial, health, technology, travel, and more – for tailored professional development.
  1. Build a strong network of local peers (via PRSA Chapters and Districts)
    A strong network is diverse and includes clients, peers, senior professionals, business leaders and vendors. PRSA Chapters give members the opportunity to strengthen their networks, grow as professionals and provide better solutions to the organizations they serve. Many Chapters provide New Pros programming at the local level, live. California Capital, Chicago, and more have active New Pros committees.
  1. Demonstrate thought leadership (via MyPRSA)
    Do you have something to say about a topic in which you’re well versed? If so, you could become an influential thought leader on PRSA’s members-only online community, MyPRSA. A great way to meet other PR and communications professionals is by answering questions, writing thought-provoking posts and blogs, and sharing experiences. There’s a New Pros-specific community to engage with professionals in a similar point in their career as you. You can also write for PRSA New Pros’ blog The Edge.
  1. Set yourself up for your next career success
    Plus, PRSA offers lifelong learning to help you improve your job skills, stay competitive and advance your career. There are on-demand trainings, MBA prep and APR support sessions.

Porterfield,Hanna_headshot2017This content originally appeared in PRSA’s membership email and was repurposed for use on PRSA New Pros The Edge by Hanna Porterfield, 2018 Chair of PRSA’s New Professionals Section. Based in Chicago, but frequently on an airplane, she is an account manager at NYC-headquartered Development Counsellors International. Hanna is a graduate of Michigan State University. Connect with her on Twitter @citygirlhanna.