Mentors can be the external guiding hand that helps many meet a professional or personal challenge and develop their careers. But what’s the best way to find the support you need and take that extra step? Mentors from Women in PR, CharityComms, The Suzy Ferguson Spirit Award and NSPCC discuss.
Mentor schemes come in various shapes and sizes and can range from paid for programs to voluntary services. But, whether you choose a program from industry bodies such as PRCA or CIPR or focus groups such as Charity Comms and Women in PR, experts agree that the first step is to have a clear objective in mind.
Mary Whenman, president of Women in PR UK and a mentor in the PR Week Mentoring Project, told Gorkana that identifying a single objective is the best way to find a mentor and work towards personal progress year over year.
In the case of Women in PR’s work with PR Week Mentoring, Whenman says the goal is clear from the onset. It aims to reach out to mid-career women in comms, who often drop out after having children, and attempting to get them achieve board level roles. She says this approach should be taken whatever sector you work in.
Start to finish: how a clear objective works in action
James Barker, digital marketing manager at children’s charity NSPCC, has been both a mentee and mentor with CharityComms. He says he first joined the program with the objective of eventually becoming a line manager, in which he succeeded.
“Being a mentor helps you to grow your skills of giving advice, listening and mentoring people. Great way to grow skills if you don’t line manage. Now I am a line manager of large team I realise how much I use those mentoring skills on an everyday basis,” says Barker.
He continues: “I have been a mentee and a mentor and I can safely say it been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my career. Having the opportunity to bounce ideas off of someone out of your organisation about your career is so useful.”
Lally Wentworth, CharityComms’ membership and mentoring manager, says Barker’s success is down to setting a “clear start and finish” – something she suggests everyone looking for a mentor should do.
Work with someone who cares about your goals
Henry Playfoot, strategy director at Claremont Communications and winner of the 2016 Suzy Ferguson Spirit Award for his work as a mentor, encourages that PRs not only seek to set a finish line but also find someone that cares about their goals.
“Only ask people who you feel you can trust and connect with – don’t head straight for the stars just because they’re flying high. A good mentor is someone who genuinely cares about you, so focus on working with and building those relationships.”
He adds: “If you don’t have access to good people in your current role my top tip is always make the effort to grow your network and be bold in asking for help. Most people are flattered by being asked, so don’t be shy!”
- Have you had a good experience with a mentor? Nominate an inspiration for this year’s Suzy Spirit Inspiration Award, which aims to recognise those that go above and beyond their daily work to inspire those around them.