Thoughts on mentoring in public relations

I was flattered to be asked to participate in a research study for the University of Maryland on mentoring public relations professionals.  Mentoring is a rewarding aspect of my work experience.  Our interview raised some interesting thoughts, and I would love to hear about your experiences with mentoring.

What Constitutes a Mentoring Relationship?

Mentoring involves sharing your insights about work with a person who has less experience than you do, who can benefit professionally from your advice, without any expectation of compensation or return.   It can also involve coaching and encouragement.  At its core, I think mentoring is about conversations, and maybe more about listening than talking.  It’s about establishing a relationship based on trust and shared interests, with the goal of helping a person (or each other) reach their full professional potential.

There are formal mentoring programs, such as the one operated by PRSA-NCC.  But mentoring can also take place in the context of internships or through professional networking.  It can also happen informally; for example, I am often approached for advice after I make a presentation.

What has been your experience with mentoring or being mentored?

What Makes For a Successful Mentoring Relationship?

One approach that worked well for me is to go into the mentoring relationship expecting and wanting to learn from my mentee, as well as to provide that person with advice and coaching.  It has always been my feeling that the person I am coaching could turn out to be my boss one day.  I think it works best as a reciprocal relationship, at least on some level.

Both parties have to be willing to share, and also be good listeners.

Other than that, I think people at all levels can benefit from mentoring.  Experienced people can use mentoring, and young professionals can also be good coaches.  The PRSA-NCC program serves young professionals and accepts mentors with ten or more years of experience.  While that is the traditional approach, I think lots of veteran professionals (self included!) could benefit from mentoring.  And I believe professionals with less than ten years of experience can also make successful mentors.  I would accept a mentor with fewer years of work experience than myself, if the fit were right, because experience is not always measured in years.

Commitment to the relationship is an essential element, e.g., a monthly lunch or drink together to talk and share experiences. The PRSA-NCC advises mentees to pick up the tab for these get-togethers with their coaches, but I wouldn’t expect someone I was mentoring to pay for my coffee or lunch.  I think it’s fine to go dutch.  Sending a thank you note or email afterwards would be sufficient.

Ideally, a mentor should also be available to be “on call” if their mentee is facing a sticky situation at work, for example, and needs some quick advice.  At any rate, the expectations should be fairly clear up front, even in informal mentoring relationships.

What has worked well for you in mentoring relationships?  What pitfalls should be avoided?

Mentoring and Social Media

Does social media enhance the mentoring experience?  In our conversation, we discussed personal and professional boundaries related to social media.  My thought was that LinkedIn was a natural fit for mentoring relationships.  And it’s fine to follow each other on Twitter and subscribe to each other’s blogs and YouTube Channels.  But Facebook?  While it’s not completely off the table, I think you have to respect that for many, Facebook is a personal social network.  So, I think it would be advisable for mentors not to initiate friending on Facebook.

Has social media enhanced your mentoring experience?  How?

About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a mom, teacher, and blogger. Her blogs include Autumn in Virginia, Cool Yule Blog, and You Can't Make This Stuff Up, among others. She is also the creator of "Living Well With Autism," an online resource for caregivers of children, teens, and adults with autism and related special needs.

Posted on April 24, 2012, in Professional Involvement and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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