Mentoring…I talked about this in my last post but some cool stuff has happened since then, so bear with me…
I was hit (happily) with the realization that mentoring occurs on at two levels.
The one that we most often think about is where, as more seasoned professionals, we offer advice and counsel to younger professionals who are at a transitional point in their own careers.
As co-chair of the PRSA College of Fellows’ Mentoring Committee, I recently helped organize a series of mentoring sessions at PRSA’s International Conference. Nearly a dozen Fellows met with close to two dozen other PRSA members who wanted someone with whom they could do a “reality check”…“Am I on the right path?…What steps do I take to move forward?”
Based on the feedback we’ve received, the effort was successful. The mentees came away feeling grateful to have had a chance to “test drive” their own thoughts and ideas about their respective career paths. The mentors appreciated having had the opportunity to pay back the support they, themselves, have gotten over the years from others.
But then I got back to Curry College, where I oversee the Communication Department’s Public Relations Concentration and serve as faculty adviser to the Curry College Public Relations Student Association (CCPRSA).
Almost immediately, I experienced three different examples of the second, equally important, level of mentoring…the chance to help young future professionals get started on their own career paths. They come to us…their professors, advisors, friends…with their own questions… “Is this the right set of courses to take?…What kind of internship should I apply for?”
So…what happened that caused me to have the mentoring revelation?
First, I went with a few members of the CCPRSA Executive Board to the PRSA Boston Annual Meeting. They’re all sophomores…COM major; PR Concentration. The concept of public relations as a career path is new to them, and they’re still trying to come to grips with what PR really is.
In the course of a few lightning-fast hours, they shook hands and chatted with the chief communications officer for General Electric, the chair of the board of directors of PRSA (who is also senior vice president at a major PR firm in the Boston area), the former director of marketing and communications for a major law firm in Boston, and countless other PR pros from agencies, corporations, and nonprofit organizations. In short…a networking orgy.
Then, during the meeting, I got a text message from another CCPRSA E-Board member (a senior) apologizing for not having made it to the meeting as planned. She was at her PR firm internship and was offered the opportunity to assist with some after-hours client-related activities. In addition she had gotten a hit from some media outreach she had done and was setting up a client interview. I honestly could see the gleam of excitement in her eyes in the message!!
THEN…the very next day…I had a chat and coffee with a Curry COM/PR alumna who, since graduating just a few short years ago, has firmly established herself in the event planning arena. Every job that she has had since graduation has moved her up the path to success. Our conversation started with her immediately saying, with one of the happiest looks I have ever seen on anyone’s face, “I LOVE my job!” As I like to say so often, “’nuff said.”
And these examples, my friends, are “why we do what we do” as mentors. It’s not for personal gain. There is no expectation of a “payback” in the future. With a tip of the hat as always to Nike®, we just do it.
There IS a “reward,” though. The reward is the look on the face and in the eyes of each one of our mentees when he or she realizes that a particular career field (PR or whatever) is “home,” and the knowledge that we have helped in some way to reach that realization.