As I ease gently-ish into the spring semester with my “day-job” of introducing undergraduate Communication majors at Curry College to our profession of public relations and part-time gig teaching graduate communication courses at Regis College, I find myself once again thinking about “the future.”
With the undergrads, we’re laying the groundwork for “life after Curry” when they will face the dual challenges of adapting to “grown-up” life and getting a foothold on their chosen career ladder for the climb to success.
The grad students, for the most part, have already embarked on their careers and are weighing the options that they now see available to them.
In both cases, they bring me into the picture by asking questions…by asking for my advice…by looking to me for guidance as they sift through the possibilities.
I have a hard time, for some reason, thinking of myself as a “mentor,” although that is what others keep calling me. I’m just not convinced (it’s a me thing, I know) that I really fit the description.
I had a mentor when I was starting out as an intern…Clinton Parks, US Army Training and Doctrine Command Public Affairs. I talk and write about him a lot. Clint gave me “one-of-a-kind” opportunities because, as he said repeatedly, “I believe you can do this.”
A little side note on this relationship…I didn’t ask Clint to be my mentor. Nor did he say, “Kirk, I am going to be your mentor.”
Our relationship evolved as we both realized that we “clicked”…that he and I tended to think the same way and to have similar professional values and aspirations.
What Clint did for me was open doors and allow me entrance to a previously unknown (to me) world in which professional…military and civilian…communicators helped foster an understanding of their employer’s (the Army) activities.
And I reciprocated by going the extra mile, by volunteering for internship assignments that others shunned…and gaining valuable additional experience that the others missed out on.
Clint also introduced me (and my other intern colleagues, I hasten to add) to the Public Relations Society of America through the Tidewater Chapter there in the Hampton/Norfolk (VA) area.
Thus began my now 30-plus-year affiliation with PRSA…and with the public relations profession.
But it all started with someone who went above and beyond the requirements of his own job to help a young, wet-behind-the-ears intern get his own start.
And that is the “secret sauce” as we ourselves reach out to or are contacted by younger professionals who, themselves, are trying to navigate the choppy waters of career progression.
Opening the door for someone is not an onerous responsibility. It can be as simple as providing a name and a phone number or email address. It can be as complicated as helping someone make a potentially life-changing decision about the next step in his or her career.
Whatever the level of involvement, you can play a key role in helping this person enter his or her desired area of interest through a door that you opened.
Stop. Listen. Is there someone knocking on your door??