By Claudia Costello
As communications professionals, it’s important to create relationships that last – it’s what we do. Building relationships with reporters and other industry professionals can sometimes be the difference between getting a story placed for a client or not. Forming professional and productive, and yes, fun relationships with clients is equally important.
However, oftentimes the most important relationships are formed behind closed doors in one-on-one conversations. In a career defined by relationships, a meaningful mentor is often the most influential and cherished relationship. This rings especially true for young professionals trying to learn as much as they can, while also establishing themselves.
Mentorship does not have to be a formal process. Whether it’s a current or old co-worker, boss, friend, or family member, it is important to find someone who can guide you as a young professional to make the right decisions in your career.
I’ve been lucky enough to have many mentors during my career, some of whom may not even know it. In fact, every person I’ve worked with has been a mentor to me in some way. They’ve helped to provide me with a foundation of support and encouragement in everything I do. Their feedback has helped me to grow professionally, and personally, as well as led me to follow in their lead. The mentors I have had during my young career helped me stay focused on tasks, gain confidence in my abilities, and attain goals.
Just about everyone in the communications world has heard of setting SMART goals – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. One important aspect of a mentor is that they can help you set and reach your SMART goals. Setting goals with my mentor and checking in every so often to see how I’ve been working to reach them has helped me develop quickly in my career early on. While you can set a goal on your own, accountability is often critical in reaching them. A mentor is a great outside perspective that can make sure you’re making progress and hitting career goals.
Having a mentor can also be a vital asset to help you kickstart your career, especially in PR. They can leverage their network to help you get connected within the PR world and help potentially launch your career. Not only can they help you get a job in PR, but they can introduce you to key journalists and reporters to help you build a network of your own. There’s no shame in using your resources to help you get started, especially if you’re breaking into the industry fresh out of college.
A mentor is also simply someone you can look to for advice. Sometimes, you just need someone to talk to about your job and career, and a mentor is just that person. Even if it's just catching up for lunch, it’s important to have someone outside of your workplace who you can be a sounding board for as you navigate the challenges of building a career.
Now, you may be asking yourself… How am I supposed to find a mentor?
It’s important to look to your network of professionals to see if there’s someone you can start to build a relationship with, even just by asking if they’d be willing to answer a few questions you have. As I mentioned earlier, mentorship does not have to be a formal thing. Looking to friends and family and joining professional organizations like PRSA or young professionals groups are two of the easiest ways to get yourself out there to find the right mentor for you.
Another option is to ask your company about putting together a formal mentorship program. Many companies have formal programs in place to help their employees grow within their positions in the company.
Mentorship can come from a lot of different places, in many different forms. Finding someone who will be there for you along your journey as a PR professional can change the entire trajectory of your career. Public Relations is not an easy career to navigate, especially in the beginning. Having a mentor is one way to help guide you to become a strong force in PR, from the beginning.