In his book “The Critical 14 Years of your Professional Life,” Robert Dilenschneider quotes his mentor (and my old friend) Professor Walt Seifert. “Mentoring is nothing more than helping another person succeed.” Walt had a great way with words, and it took him just nine to sum up the essence of mentoring.
There are many ways to find a mentor – formally, informally or even casually. If you have a job, it can be as easy as looking around the office to find a person who does what you aspire to do and simply ask for help. Or else, there are PRSA programs in place to help you find those professional kindred spirits — for example, through the PRSA College of Fellows mentorship program or online through the PRSA Jobcenter.
Of course, if you’re still a student, don’t have a job, or aren’t surrounded by people doing what you’d like to do, finding a mentor can be more challenging. But, that’s where PRSA is a font of opportunity – each and every member can be a source of eager help.
Another great place for students to find mentors is among their schools’ own graduates. These are the folks who best understand the educational program, having been through it themselves, and so are most likely to have the shared experiences that make for synchronous connections. Get in touch with the faculty advisor of your PRSSA chapter and find alumni who can help you learn and grow. For some great advice, take a look at the fine article written by Susan Walton in Tactics last year — “Back to School: Seven ways for PR professionals to contribute to higher education.”
Universities themselves can be great sources of mentoring connections. Ohio Northern University (ONU), the school where I teach, started an alumni mentoring program last fall that formally structured what professors had been doing informally for years — that is, matching current students with past students who share similar interests. The program was the brainchild of a pair of ONU’s own graduates — Rachael Mathes McKee and Kevin Saghy. As recent graduates, both Rachael and Kevin understood first hand the benefit to students of having strong mentors. They also knew how important it is to be good mentors themselves, and felt it was important to find ways to give back to their alma mater. Now in the business world, at NetJets and the Chicago Cubs, Rachael and Kevin have recruited enough graduates so that every current student in the ONU PRSSA chapter can find a match with a mentor who shares his or her professional interest. As an added benefit, Rachael and Kevin also raised enough money to help new students pay their PRSSA dues.
So, my old friend Professor Walt Seifert was right — mentoring is indeed helping another person succeed. As an instructor and mentor to others, though, I am privileged to see yet another dimension of mentorship value — that is, as an essential way of helping the profession evolve, thrive and grow. I see it in my students, I see it in my peers, and I can also see it in myself. And, with that, I’m able, ready and eager to mentor others, too.
Steve Iseman, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA, is a member of the PRSA Board of Directors and Professor of Communication Arts/Public Relations at Ohio Northern University
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