PR, like any other business, depends on its mentors. Without them, incoming junior-level staffers have to leap into an atmosphere of industry lingo, established media relationships and ever-changing trends. A good mentor is invaluable to a mentee, to an agency, and to the industry as a whole.
Seek out Mentees
While some people have the chutzpah to ask a senior-level staffer to be a mentor, most don’t. Keep your eye out for talent and when you see it, nurture it. Also be sure to seek out good opportunities for your mentees; give them the chance to shine at something they wouldn’t ordinarily get the chance to do.
Change Your Tactics
The same approach won’t work for everyone. Some people prefer an almost-micromanaging approach, some people prefer just to come to a mentor with concerns. Ask questions and really listen to the answers. That way you’ll be able to offer the kind of direction that works best for your mentee.
Offering to be a mentor during a company cocktail party is very easy; the tough part is following up on that offer. You’re no good to your mentee if you’re not around, or if you’re the type who keeps your door closed. Keep the door to your office open, and you’ll be keeping the door to communication open as well.
Give Honest Advice
The reason people value mentors is because they honestly help out those just starting out, so help honestly. Don’t sugar-coat tasks, or organizations or – and this one is tough – your own experiences. Share your dismal failures, as well as your resounding successes. We all live in terror of very similar scenarios…did you give a press conference and nobody came? Explain how you dealt with that, and how you made sure it wouldn’t happen again.
Set an Example
The biggest part of being a good mentor is being a good role model. If you’re the kind to snooze through company meetings or check email during brainstorms, you’re not going to be a particularly sought-after mentor. Being the energetic, thoughtful, forward-thinking type will get you noticed by potential mentees – and everyone else as well!