Take My Word for It: Mentoring and Being Mentored Makes Sense
By Mike Fulton
Whether you own your own agency or are interning in public relations, you have something to offer to a mentoring relationship and should participate in and promote this tried and true relationship-building tactic.
Opportunities abound to join a formal mentoring program — at work or in a professional association (including PRSA and PRSSA) – to connect with someone who needs help or can offer you valuable professional development guidance.
There are hundreds of employers and trade associations that have developed “models” for matching people together to learn and grow by spending time and sharing guidance with one another. I have participated in such programs at my alma mater, West Virginia University, at companies where I have worked and in professional associations I have joined. Some of the best mentor – mentee relationships I have experienced are not through a formal program; but rather when I was introduced to someone, we met, we found common professional interests and hit it off.
Both the mentor and mentee bring their personal and professional experiences to the relationship. Through honesty, transparency and ethical conduct, they are able to share important career advice for both the experienced veteran employee and the recently-hired college graduate. Open minds and balance in the conversations and advice offerings make for the optimum mentoring and benefits.
As I reflected on my mentors, mentees and my efforts to help promote mentoring over the years, the top benefits of a mentoring relationship became apparent:
There are huge benefits from learning from an experienced person
More worldly, accomplished professionals are very busy and face the pressures of a demanding job and home life. They have significant experience in one or more professions and have more than likely remade themselves several times during their careers. These people can offer the perspective of having gone through management transitions, several new jobs, advancements or setbacks at those organizations, and known when a job or career choice may not be working for all parties.
There are huge benefits from learning from a younger professional
People in their first few jobs bring energy, new skill sets, technology capabilities and other talents to a mentoring relationship. Often, they do not understand their true value to their organizations or the many years and stages careers extend. Young professionals can help you renew yourself and your career.
You can join forces to better understand the landscape of your profession
Both parties in a mentoring relationship can help each other learn the history, current state of and future potential of an industry or a profession. Changes in society, politics, greater reliance on technology, office work environment, diversity, and customer needs are just a few of the factors to explore and master for one to be more productive and successful.
You can help each other on career paths and winning a new job or promotion
As mentor and mentee get to know each other, they see special talents or opportunities for each other and can share these observations during their time together. Relationships matter in finding new and better employment opportunities, and they can help open doors, improve understanding of a job opportunity and close deals.
You can have as many mentors or mentees as you want
Even if you are involved in one or more mentoring programs, it is okay to develop new and fresh mentor-mentee relationships. The natural ebb and flow of tapping your contacts for advice and quality time allows for even the busiest of people to meet and sustain a new valuable contact. It is a matter of time management, but I would not want to close out the chance to meet someone new who might offer mutually-beneficial information and insights. By not limiting yourself to one mentor-mentee relationship, you open yourself to the chance to make new connections that can further your career, enlighten you about your profession or help guide you through difficult scenarios. And often you gain a friend you otherwise might not have met.
You aren’t “locked in”
Both parties must participate in setting the manageable expectations in a mentor-mentee arrangement, and are not limited by the rules of a formal program. Those expectations can be increased or reduced as the relationship grows in length and in trust. It is okay to dissolve a mentor-mentee relationship if it is not working for one or both parties.
You can’t beat the personal and professional rewards
There is no greater satisfaction than seeing one’s mentor or mentee achieve a success, navigate a rough patch or learn a new skill through some, even small, contribution you made along the way. These are the genuine experiences that enlighten, awaken and nurture our colleagues.
All of us at one time or another has received valuable insights or timely feedback about our career or life goals. Most of us can point to the people and specific observations that contributed to making us who we are today. Our relationships with people outside of our family are a blessing and they can offer benefits we never thought possible.
Why would any professional and driven person not want to experience this support and mutual respect?
Please check out PRSA’s resources on mentoring and how to get involved.
Mike Fulton directs the Washington, DC, office of the Asher Agency and teaches public affairs in the West Virginia University Reed College of Media’s Integrated Marketing Communications program. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @hillrat1156