Published on May 1, 2017, at 10:15 a.m.
by Erica Cooke.
Mentor. We hear variations of that word all the time: mentor, mentee, mentorship, mentoring, etc. But how does it all begin? It seems kind of odd to go up to someone you admire, but don’t know very well, and say, “Hi, will you be my mentor?” We know it’s important to learn from our role models and those who came before us, but how does that whole process start?
Where to start
Whether it be a professional in your workplace or a professor at your university, the best place to start your search is within your immediate vicinity. Teachers, advisers and professionals have been in your shoes, so they know the industry and understand your goals. The best way to begin the relationship is to reach out and start an organic effort to get to know them. It’s amazing what you can learn about someone simply during a lunch at Zoës Kitchen.
What to say
Begin with an open dialogue. Ask them about their experience, how they broke into the industry, what were they doing when they were your age or their favorite memory of working in the industry. While it’s important to learn more about your possible mentor, it’s also important for them to learn about you. What made you want to work in public relations? What industry or practice are you interested in? Where do you want to be in five years?
Now that you know each other and understand where each of you has been and where you want to go, it’s time to begin your authentic relationship. You can start to help each other. Mentors can open so many doors and answer so many questions.
They will be your No. 1 fan and cheer you on when you apply for your dream job or internship. They will also be the first one to critique your résumé. Mentors have the ability and connections that can propel you in the public relations field, and they will be on your side every step of the way.
Always be sure to say thank you. Gratitude can make you stand out against so many other people. Sending hand-written, thank-you notes can open doors by impressing professionals who one day can offer up opportunities. Be sure to thank your mentor every step of the way. They hold the crucial role of being your No. 1 supporter and biggest fan. They want to see you succeed as much as you want to.
Your mentor has taken you to incredible heights. Now, it’s your turn to give back. You might not have realized it, but throughout this process, you have started an incredible network and now have the ever-important building blocks to help you succeed.
Try taking on a mentee to teach your skills to. In some ways, they will reflect parts of you and resemble someone you used to be. Public relations is a competitive field, but it also means you have the power to help push people up.
My personal story
Throughout my college career, I have had the pleasure of being a mentor and being mentored. My incredible adviser/professor has helped mold me into the professional I want to be. She has opened doors for me that I never thought would be possible. She’s someone I can ask for interview advice, check my AP style and even be someone I confide in. Throughout my internship hunt, she has been one of the first people I share any news with. She has made me the person I am today.
On the other hand, I have a wonderful mentee. She inspires me every day, and I see a lot of myself in her. She pushes me to be a better professional because I want to be someone she proudly looks up to.
Every connection you make has a lasting impact, so go out into the world and strive for excellence. Be a mentor and be mentored.