*This post comes to you from Senior Account Manager and rock star, Amanda Munroe (@ABMBoston)…
Mentor – noun \ˈmen-ˌtȯr, -tər\ a : a trusted counselor or guide b : tutor, coach
In Greek mythology, Mentor was the friend and trusted counselor of Odysseus (legendary king and hero of Homer’s Odyssey). Given their relationship, Mentor was assigned the enormous responsibility of raising Odysseus’s son when he was away fighting in Troy. Naturally, Mentor formed a near-paternal bond with the child, and, as a result, the personal name Mentor has been adopted in English as a term meaning a “father-like teacher.”
Thankfully, in business, mentors aren’t necessarily called upon to raise someone’s child for 20 years (phew!). Yet, they serve a vital role and can help fuel personal and professional growth. In PR, mentors can help make sense of the insanity, share real-world experiences and lessons learned, and push you out of your comfort zone so you can become the PR pro you want to be.
When I started working at SHIFT more than six years ago, I was excited to start my first job at an agency. I had always considered myself a good writer, having majored in journalism, and thought my time management skills were top-notch, the result of always working two (or three) jobs in high school and college. I had no idea what I was in for. Within a month, I thought I made a terrible mistake and didn’t think I was cut out for the fast-paced and perfection-driven world of agency life. I was failing every day – making errors both small (missing internal deadlines) and monumental (sending a sensitive document to the wrong client). I was ready to call it quits.
But then I talked to a senior staff member and she changed everything. She told me to take a deep breath and said that everyone feels that way their first few months. She gave me real-world tips and tricks to help me manage my time and pay attention to detail. Once I mastered those, she pushed me to think bigger –let me know that speaking up in client meetings was the best way to impress a client and position myself as a rock star to my boss. When I was nervous about networking, she told me to get over it and reinforced how it would help me with my job. A couple of years later, when I was taking the job way too seriously, she reminded me that it was just PR – no lives would be lost if a client had more than a few edits to my press release. To this day, I still consider her a mentor and one of my closest friends.
I obviously stayed at SHIFT and worked my way up into a management position. Soon, I found myself being asked by other SHIFTers to be their mentor. Me? What words of wisdom did I possibly have, I wondered. But once I talked to the ACs and AEs looking for guidance, I realized they weren’t asking for pearls but, instead, the same thing I needed six years ago. They wanted to know how they could impress their managers and clients. How to break through a publication that never accepts a pitch or covers a certain company. How to get ahead when, sometimes, you feel like you can’t possibly do enough. It’s rewarding to give them advice and then see them come into my office, all smiles, when they’ve accomplished their goal. Because of them, I’ve pushed myself to do better in my own job too.
At SHIFT, we’ve recently revamped our Mentor Program and I’m excited to lead this task. The mentor/mentee relationship offers rewards for both and benefits the individuals, as well as the Company. When rolling out the new program, we encouraged mentees to look for mentors that are people they aspire to be like and trust, but aren’t going to just tell them what they want to hear. I know that worked wonders for me.
Do you have a mentor? How has the relationship impacted you?