Why we all need a mentor
Daney Parker, Editor, PRmoment.com
PR mentors describe how they became mentors and what they gain from it, whilst mentees explain how they found mentors and list the benefits of having one-to-one sessions with someone who provides expert guidance.
‘Everyone should have a mentoring board’
Heather Delaney, founder and consultant at marketing agency Gallium Ventures, discusses how a range of mentors can be useful and describes her own experiences of mentoring: “I have been a mentor over the years within the PR industry and also mentor founders globally who sit within the tech space.
“I started mentoring many years ago as I was told I needed to have a female mentor, as I obviously am female myself, and all of my line managers in my career had been male. A strange idea limiting the mentor on their sex. When I was introduced to a wonderful woman she informed me she was impressed with my career and approach, but the only thing she could mentor me on was how to balance having a family within the busy industry we worked. Not something that I found helpful.
“Many people are unaware of what a mentor is there for. A mentor can help guide the personal decisions by becoming a valuable sounding board in which they understand the path you currently walk. Helpful advice which covers difficult accounts, career path and how best to navigate the stresses of office life are just as important as an hour coffee training.
“I believe everyone should have a ‘mentoring board’ where each individual has a specialty within a different area. This could mean a mentor which is there to help guide you on how to correctly balance work/life, a mentor who helps your with how best to negotiate your next review or even a mentor who sits in another industry but can coach you on the best ways in which to loop it into your own career.“
‘My first job was to give confidence’
Independent PR consultant Nik Govier, formerly of Unity, explains how she moved from informal mentor to official mentor: “I’ve been unofficially mentoring people for the last decade – grabbing coffees here and there and attempting to say something helpful to people starting out – usually those launching their own ventures. I’ve helped set up P&Ls, advised on marketing, made a ton of introductions and imparted words of wisdom that at some point were imparted upon me. Really just trying to give something back – to pay it forward. But I’m not sure the term mentor was ever used. I think it was all a bit too ad hoc for that.
“But I’ve recently started ‘officially’ mentoring someone. Why now? Well a few things came together. I’ve got more time on my hands since leaving Unity, I’ve reached the age and stage where I genuinely think I’ve got something useful to offer and – perhaps most importantly - I saw brilliant talent that could be moulded. Talent combined with ambition and a social conscious – a powerful mix!
“It’s an interesting dynamic because Jess actually used to be a client at a couple of different organisations. She was junior when we first met – but had a good head on her shoulders and knew how to get the best out of her agencies. My first job as her mentor was actually to give her the confidence to leave her latest role without a job to go to – madness some might say, but I could see clearly that it could squash the brilliance out of her and she needed to get out before her confidence started to be effected. It’s early days but I’m excited to watch her realise her potential and to be on the journey with her.”
‘The rewards of being a mentor are lasting’
Helene Hall, chief operating officer at agency Melt Content says she became a mentor because she had experienced the benefits of being a mentee herself: “It enabled me to push my personal boundaries further than I thought possible and showed me an ambitious path that was replicable and achievable. It’s not difficult to mentor someone; in fact, it's really enjoyable seeing someone else thrive, change and grow. In my experience it's a mentee's natural disposition that dictates how easily they'll achieve success – an open mind and honest self-reflection are essential.
“I found a mentee through a colleague who knew someone they felt would benefit from my help and guidance. She was also someone with a thirst for knowledge and the determination to progress.
“The rewards of being a mentor are lasting – you get to see and appreciate your mentee’s success long after your mentoring period has ended. It can last a lifetime, and so do the connections you make. More people are recognising the value of mentoring, but I think many are still worried about asking a prospective mentor because they think they'll say no. But what have you got to lose? I would encourage more people to go out and actively seek a mentor relationship, and to volunteer as mentors.”
‘I needed some structure to my business’
Chris Love, owner of agency Love PR, describes how Belfast City Council provided invaluable support: “I’ve just commenced my 11th year of being an independent practitioner and felt that I needed some structure to my business.
“Belfast City Council offered me 10.5 hours of mentoring support and over a series of meetings together we developed a growth plan to build my company in the local market and to develop cross border business in the Republic of Ireland. The mentor took a very practical approach in assisting me chart this journey which focused on analysing retainer clients, balancing monthly work input versus remuneration, converting projects to retainers and increasing my turnover by 25%. It hasn’t been all plain sailing, simply for the fact, it’s hard to have someone cast a critical eye over my business, but I now realise that there is a lot of planning and commitment needed to develop this growth curve.
“At the end of the day no one can do this for me, I have to take on the challenge ahead, but it’s one I’m excited about and look forward to implementing the growth plan.”
My mentor-mentee relationship grew organically
Anne-Marie Lacey, managing director of agency Filament PR (pictured on the right with mentor Sarah Pinch), describes how her relationship with her mentor blossomed: “After winning the title of Outstanding Young Communicator at the CIPR North East regional PRide Awards in 2014, I felt it was a real shame that young professionals were winning these awards, but doing nothing with the platform it afforded them to engage with their peers in industry. So much so, in 2015 I approached the then president of the CIPR – Sarah Pinch – to see if we could do something about it. We went on to set up the CIPR’s Young Communicators’ Forum and the rest, as they say, is history.
“My mentor-mentoree relationship with Sarah grew organically – there was no official proposal – just a friendship that blossomed. When an opportunity came to launch my own business, she was the first person I called for advice and since then she’s been my sounding board, the balancing words of wisdom, my number one cheerleader and at times, a critical friend.
“Fast-forward a year and a half and Filament PR is now a thriving business working with clients across the lifestyle, leisure and entertainment sectors, with a particular specialism in brand licensing. Sarah and I have recently formalised our relationship and in January 2017 she was appointed to Filament PR’s non-executive director.”
‘I found it hugely rewarding to have a mentor’
Kate Johns, owner of agency Nudge PR, says she was introduced to her mentor Cirkle’s Caroline Kinsey through the PRCA mentor programme: “I’d specifically requested her from the group of mentors as Cirkle is one of the most successful agencies in our field of food and drink and I admire its work.
“I found it hugely rewarding to have a mentor, to have someone who has trodden the same path and at the same time, can look at my business from an objective perspective. Her advice was invaluable on many levels, but in particular on the strategic and on the financial sides of the business. The year after we started meeting, Nudge’s turnover doubled and it increased by the same amount again the following year, 2017. We completed the mentor programme in mid-2016, but Caroline and I are still regularly in touch. Her counsel continues to be extremely valuable to me.
“Like any successful relationship, there needs to be a good fit between mentor and mentee and I certainly found this to be the case with Caroline and me. We share similar levels of great enthusiasm for our field of food and drink PR, for growing our businesses and motivating our staff.”
‘Our meetings focused on me’
Anna Geffert, associate partner at communications firm Newgate and newly elected sponsorship secretary at Women in PR (WPR), got her mentor with help from WPR: “When juggling the 24/7, digital, social, deadline-driven roles we play, it’s often difficult to poke your head out of the circus tent to realise where you are or where you are going next in your career.
“Last year, having reached a stage in my job where I was hitting multiple crossroads, I needed guidance from someone experienced in our world, but also independent. I successfully applied for the WPR Mentoring Programme and was fortunate enough to have Shelley Facius as my mentor.
“Our meetings focused on me, not my clients, my team or my family, and gave me the opportunity to analyse my position and my long-term career progression. For want of a better phrase, it was ‘Professional Me Time’. By focussing on me, I was able to move agency, retrain in financial PR and grow a new team - and I couldn’t be happier in my new career. Each year the WPR mentoring programme has grown in size and popularity so as we celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’re expecting 2018 to break even more records.”
Mingle with mentors
Anna Jobling, WPR committee member and associate director, Interel UK, describes events that give you the chance to network with mentors: “Women in Public Affairs (WiPA) brings together women from across the industry to share experiences, offer advice and explore how we can work together to support women up the career ladder and into the most senior positions in the industry.
“I joined the committee that helps organise WiPA events last year and I earned my stripes organising one of the regular speed mentoring sessions. Speed mentoring puts attendees into small groups to have a series of short, focused conversations with an industry leader. Each group meets four different mentors who share their insights on issues such as effective management, career progression, pay negotiation, networking, and work / life balance.
“We always have a fantastic line up of mentors, men and women, who kindly give up their time to take part. Many of our mentors find that this is much easier to accommodate than a full time mentoring relationship.
“The mornings are fast paced and the room buzzes with energy. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for career tips, a boost of confidence and the opportunity to meet like-minded women, in a relaxed and supportive environment. There are some very successful and inspirational women who we can learn from and that’s what Women in Public Affairs is all about.”
The mentor/mentee relationship is one that gives to both sides, so if you want the help and support of a senior professional, don’t be afraid to ask them, as you will be helping them as well as yourself.
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