Mentoring helps me grow as a public relations professional and it’s never too far from my thoughts. I have mentors; I am a mentor. I plan to be in both roles throughout my life. Mentors teach us things, bring out our best thoughts, confirm our closest held beliefs, make us think, even give us new perspectives. Mentors come in many sizes and shapes — sometimes from the most unexpected places.
One of my most recent mentors was a five-year-old heading for her first day of school. She told me, “Kindergarten is big. I’m a little scared.” Watching her forge ahead despite her fear was a good reminder of leading with courage and self-confidence — and moving forward to get the job done. Thanks, Ana Maria, for that wisdom.
Wherever you find your mentor, be clear on the expectations for him or her, and for yourself.
Know what you want from a mentor relationship. Is it a way to advance your career? Is it to help you grow and build your inner potential? Is it to develop new skills, to accelerate your career, to find your place in a new organization, to grow emotionally or intellectually, to have a sounding board in your own profession? Are you looking for a formal or informal relationship; a long- or short-term relationship? Only you can know the answer. But it’s at the root of choosing the best mentor for you.
Create the Right Relationship
Whether a formal mentor program, where you and the mentor are partnered based on specific criteria, or an informal mentor who might be someone you admire and want a stronger relationship with, start the search by knowing why you want a mentor. Here are some questions to ask:
- Do I like and respect this person?
- Do I value his or her opinions and knowledge?
- Does he or she have something to teach me?
- Do I have something to offer him or her?
- Does his or her communication style fit with mine and can I talk freely with him or her?
- Does he or she want to be a mentor?
After a few conversations with a potential mentor, you should have a good feel for whether you want a mentoring relationship with the person. Once you’ve begun a mentor relationship, it’s okay to change your mind. Use that experience to chose more wisely the next time.
The PRSA College of Fellows offers short-term mentoring relationships each year at the PRSA International Conference. You might discuss a pressing career or business issue or concern, or learn more about applying for the College.
Margaret Ann Hennen, APR, Fellow PRSA, is president of Hennen Communication, LLC, has a focus on providing strategic communication and public relations counsel to small businesses and nonprofits, helping them tell their stories, advance their missions and serve their clients. Connect with Margaret Ann on LinkedIn.
Join Margaret Ann for mentoring sessions on Sunday, Oct. 17 from 4–6 p.m. and Monday, Oct. 18 from 7:30–9 a.m. and 3–4 p.m. at the PRSA 2010 International Conference: Powering PRogress, October 16–19 in Washington, D.C.!