For me, one of the most important things I ever did for my career was find a mentor in my first internship at a large PR firm. I looked up to her not only as an exemplary PR girl, but also someone who treated her colleagues with respect and worked to give her clients the world. She taught me everything from how to make a proper media list to how to talk to a client over a conference call. It was this first relationship that gave me the confidence I needed to know I would succeed in PR.
When I made my first moves to other agencies, even years later, it was my first mentor I called for advice and honest opinions. Now, I have new mentors at my new agency, but I still go back to the lessons I learned when I first started.
If you don’t have a mentor yet, or just looking for some guidance while dipping your toe into PR, here are a couple places you can look for that “special someone:”
Through school -I used to ask my Dean if she knew anyone in my major who was going into PR, and she would set me up on mini lunch dates with recent graduates or seniors who had a few more years “out there” than I did. I still utilize some of the advice I got in these meetings. This is an easy way to find a mentor, since it’s really hard to say no to a Dean who asks you to take an underclassman to lunch.
Through friends – I still receive emails from friends of friends who are considering getting into PR. I’m happy to help in anyway I can, and this is one way some of the best networking is done! Be sure to be very respectful while connecting with a contact through a friend… don’t ask for a job or anything too personal.
Even in an interview – If you’re going on a few informational interviews, and you feel like you’ve made a connection with one of the interviewers, don’t be shy about asking him/her out to coffee to get a bit more information on his/her career. I’m always flattered when I’m asked to lunch to talk about my work. It’s what I spend most my time doing, so of course I want to talk your ear off!
Have you found a mentor you admire? How did you come across him or her?