While reading the PRSSA blog, I was reminded of great advice: find a mentor. The importance of a mentor in the PR field is extremely valuable, especially in today’s economy.
As we come to the end of PRSSA/PRSA Relationship Month, the PRSSA blog emphasized the value of maintaining relationships with mentors in the field. Resources such as the PRSA Job Center, social media and peers can all help provide mentor contacts.
I have two people I currently look to as mentors in the PR field. Holly Lollar, president of The Lollar Group, has been so kind to mentor me over the past couple of months. As I worked with her during the summer, I was so encouraged because of the way she included me on projects. She was always so optimistic and thoughtful. She also gave incredible advice about the PR field and encouraged me to always update my portfolio.
John H. Merrill, director of community relations and community education at Tuscaloosa County Board of Education, is currently my mentor. He taught me how to improve my writing skills. He edits press releases, memorandums and letters before I send them to the media. He gives constructive criticism, and I know it is preparing me for any future career.
The PRSSA blog also noted that Ryan McShane, a 2007-2008 National Committee member, gave tips on his blog about what to look for in a mentor. He listed the following seven qualities.
1) “Well-Established – As the newbie of the office, you’ll want to find someone who pulls some weight. If your mentor sticks his neck out for you at the end of the day, you’ll want it to mean something to the person deciding your fate.”
2) “Interested in Helping — As a follow-up to the first key quality, my suggestion is to not necessarily find the person at the top of the food chain. The higher-ups of an agency may not be available at your disposal. Try to find the right balance in selecting someone who holds clout and is interested in your development.”
3) “Not Far-Removed – Another reason to find balance in the food chain, you want your mentor to be able to relate to your situation. The industry has changed quite a bit over the years with the paradigm shift in media relations.”
4) “Common Personality — You’ll click with some members of the office better than others. Find a mentor you enjoy talking with — someone you share hobbies / interests with. This will help you establish a good mentor / mentee relationship.”
5) “The Door Opener — Look for someone well-connected in the industry. If your agency can’t keep you full-time at the end of the summer, the door opener just has to make a few phone calls before you wind up with an interview.”
6) “Knows Their Stuff – Maybe your office has a social media guru — maybe it’s media relations you’re looking to perfect. Find a mentor who will be able to put tools in your toolbox.”
7) “Takes It Off-the-Record – In addition to finding someone you can look up to and emulate, you might look for someone who you can trust to keep things confidential. If you’re having a rough week and need to vent, it helps to have a go-to who will respectfully keep it between the two of you.”
I cannot imagine how I would feel as I approach graduation in May without the encouragement of both of my mentors. I encourage anyone and everyone — freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors — to look for someone to mentor them in this field.