The idea of “mentorship” is a hot topic in the public relations sphere right now, and justifiably so. It’s a concept that has grown in the communications field, and there are countless thought-provoking pieces on the subject (Erica Cooke’s Platform Magazine blog on the subject is a great example).
My purpose here is not to tell you how to pursue mentorship in your own career, but rather to explain why it’s even worth your time. Having a mentor or being a mentor yourself may seem to be yet another item on your infinite to-do list as a PR practitioner, but I promise it’s worth your investment.
One of my favorite quotes on mentorship comes from Warren Buffett, whose advice we can all agree is worth heeding. He says that “it’s good to learn from your own mistakes. It’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes.”
Without a doubt, we are all going to be guilty of error in our careers. Whether it’s missing a deadline or having an AP style error in a news release, mistakes are bound to happen. And the best way to move forward from these situations is to learn from them, and make it a point to not do the same again. But why learn only from your own mistakes?
Ours is a competitive industry, but the people around you are more than willing to share their mistakes with you and reveal their learned secrets to not committing them again. For the betterment of the industry as whole, it benefits us to build one another up and work together. Mentoring and being mentored instill trust in the PR field, as more mature practitioners see that rising professionals want to be their best selves, and the younger generation realizes that those who came before them care for their well-being too.
Further, mentorship is a self-renewing concept. As you learn from someone else, you in turn want to pass down that knowledge to someone who is now looking up to you. The legacy of your mentor becomes your own, and then that is passed down to a new beneficiary. I believe there is something striking about the thought of your own knowledge’s being handed down and reaching people whom you have never had direct contact with.
For instance, I met Hudson about a year ago. I knew he was a freshman at the college ministry I was attending, and I learned that we shared the same major, public relations. I reached out to him, and as we became better acquainted, he began asking me for advice, which I happily provided. Even more, I have tried to be an active listener. During the past year, we’ve had some good discussions. I’ve encouraged him to get involved in the department so he can learn and better involve himself in the field. I’ve offered up ideas about outreach regarding internship opportunities, which are so valuable for networking and personal growth. I’ve also shared with him some of the mistakes I had made. Hudson has reminded me of how important it is to always be an eager learner ready to listen and absorb, regardless of experience level. Hopefully, we will both take these lessons we’ve learned from each other and share them with someone else.
So get out there and make mistakes. Just don’t keep them to yourself.
Dalton Kerby is a summer intern at MP&F. He is a senior at the University of Alabama majoring in public relations with a concentration in nonprofit communication.