With so many secular changes in the PR and marketing field, mentoring has become more valuable than ever. This goes both for recent graduates about to enter the PR field and seasoned managers who, let’s face it, can learn a thing a two from younger people conditioned on social channels and digital media. There are several steps that aspiring PR pros need to take in order to develop the kind of relationships that will benefit both sides of the table.
First, some things aspiring PR pros should avoid:
- Cold calls. If they don’t know you, don’t call them.
- Shooting too high. Don’t just focus on the top professionals.
- Calling only when you need something.
- Not following up after receiving advice or help.
- Overselling your experience and talent.
- Too much one-way talking. Also known as “Me-Me Syndrome.”
To gather some information for this article I spoke with young professionals, recruiters and mentors who are familiar with how to cultivate networking opportunities and develop mentorship relationships. The consensus: Those soon-to-graduate students who have honed their networking skills are able to differentiate themselves from their peers.
“Whether you are conducting a job search, actively interviewing, or seeking to enlist a mentor, it is critical to do your homework,” said Tina Dugas, senior associate at communications recruiter Bloom, Gross & Associates.
In addition to checking out the prospective mentor, Dugas stressed that recent graduates research prospective mentors to see if they have anything in common.
Many students and young professionals understand the balance needed between wanting to learn from their mentors, and providing training (read: social media) in return.
Brian Price, a graduate student at Northern Michigan University, is national president of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).
When Brian identifies a potential mentor, he makes sure the relationship is a two-way street. Brian said his mentors feel they get as much out of working with him and vice versa.
“Brian counted on me to provide meaningful assignments, clear direction and appropriate expectations,” said Rich Jernstedt, senior counselor at Porter Novelli, who mentored Price. “Since he performed at such high levels, it motivated me to perform as a mentor.”
University of Alabama senior PR major Andrea Easley, relies on her mentors to provide her with perspective about the profession and notes that her mentors are eager to get her perspective on what makes her generation tick.
“We need our mentors’ advice about resumes, job applications, cover letters and leadership,” Easley said. “They, in turn, want to learn from us. They want to know how we perceive our industry and how we develop ideas and use social media. ”
Asked about his observations from working full-time while attending the graduate PR program at DePaul University, Robert Arredondo emphasized the importance of getting involved in both campus and outside organizations.
He pointed to the importance of establishing your own network of friends, colleagues and mentors, adding that his constant networking helped lead to landing a job as account supervisor at Edelman.
“Networking isn’t just schmoozing people,” Arredondo said. “It’s about building connections, learning from them, giving back and creating a lasting, favorable impression.”
Another actively engaged student who shouldn’t have any trouble finding mentors to support her career goals is Adara Ney, senior public relations major at the University of Florida and president of her PRSSA chapter.
Summing up the importance of networks and mentors, Adara said: “Mentorship isn’t about what you can get from someone. It’s about building a genuine long-term relationship.”
Special shout-out to Lawvin Hadisi, PR intern, Enterprise Canada, for suggesting this article.
Ron Culp is Professional Director of the Graduate Program in PR and Advertising at DePaul University, Chairman at the Plank Center for Leadership in PR and former IPR trustee. His blogs can be read at Culpwrit.com.
This article originally appeared in the March 24, 2014 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.