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Many people have a mentor. Sometimes these are official mentors, sometimes they are unofficial. Sometimes mentors get paid, often they do it to give something back. And sometimes mentors don’t even know they are someone’s mentor!
Here are a few thoughts on why having a mentor in public relations can help your career.
Well, I will start with a confession, I came to “having a mentor” a little late. On reflection, when I was at the start of my career I don’t think I had the confidence to bare my soul, fears and concerns to anyone, not even myself, but I look back now and see what a missed opportunity that was and honestly wonder what else I might have achieved if I’d found that courage.
So let me tell you, unreservedly, not having a mentor is a real missed opportunity. And something I would have done way sooner if I had my time again.
The benefits of having a mentor
One of the main benefits of a mentor is they listen and in doing so, they hold a mirror up for you, a sounding board from which you can hear for yourself the problem you’re articulating. With a bit of enquiry, you’re often solving your concern for yourself with a lot more clarity.
Who should you choose as your mentor?
I would propose you choose someone who has stood where you are, faced similar experiences and is a good and compassionate listener.
We often think our situation is unique, but it rarely is. Most challenges revolve around some form of interpersonal dynamic, politics, or personalities.
The value of learning from a mentor who has passed the obstacles you face and now has the benefit of looking back and evaluating the challenges objectively with greater understanding and context is without doubt a massive accelerator and enormous benefit.
I found my own mentor in my 30s when I was running my agency, Shine, or rather I was lucky enough that he somehow found me. A most magical, mischievous and above all wise man - Richard Hall. He was one of the great 70s Mad Men, cutting his teeth on running an ad agency in the era marketing was really being formed. He had achieved so much, he was magnificent at his craft, the coolest, brightest of creative strategists but above all he understood people, the industry and clients. Other attributes I enjoyed - wickedly good fun. Time with my mentor always leaves me feeling a little brighter and clearer.
How can I find a mentor?
Well, you just find someone you identify with, like, respect and you ask them. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
You’d be surprised at how much people, even really busy people, enjoy giving something back. It’s always super flattering to be asked to mentor someone and where possible, in my experience, people are happy to help.
I mentor a number of people now and I'm happy to tell you I also get a great deal from it. Much of my mentoring is pro-bono - such as with London Business School and the Women in PR Network. Some in acknowledgement of important friendships, and for others - trusted professional paid time where a confidant is a valued resource. All of it is a privilege and a pleasure.
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This is part of our Beginner's Guide to public relations