May is the month that brings school graduations and new beginnings for many young people. For senior college graduates, it’s both an exciting and a scary time when they enter the professional workforce. It is also an inspiring time for those of us who have mentored these students, offering them support and guidance as they take the next steps in their lives.
As I reflect on over 45 years of public relations experience, there is one constant: mentors who have helped me learn and grow in my career. And I believe in taking it forward by mentoring students and professionals as they embark on new adventures and careers – whether that’s their first post-graduate professional job or the next step in their career advancement.
Tony Dungy, in his book “The Mentor Leader: Secrets to Building People & Teams That Win Constantly,” said, “Engage, Educate, Equip, Encourage, Empower, Energize and Evaluate – these are the methods for maximizing the potential of everything. individual, team, organization or institution for ultimate success and meaning. These are the methods of a mentor leader.
As mentors, we apply these same methods used by managers and coaches to help students and young professionals maximize their potential for success. It is a process where we offer professional expertise as well as support, serving as a teacher, advisor and advocate to a mentee.
So what does it take to be a good mentor? According to the Public Relations Society of America, the qualities of a good mentor include:
- Has good listening skills
- Appreciates and shares diverse perspectives
- Able to give constructive criticism
- Willing to openly share experiences (successes and failures)
- Leads by example in professional development
- Encourages, maintains a positive attitude
Don’t underestimate the value you bring to a mentee. You were once that job-seeking graduate or entry-level employee. Because you have grown or continue to grow in your career, you bring a lot to the table, including relationships to help with networking; an objective point of view to help decision-making; writing and suggestions for their CV and cover letter; job interview preparation experience; and experience-based advice – everything from work/life balance to earning the respect of colleagues and senior management in the workplace.
Like many important projects, with just a little planning, your mentorship will be a success. Start by setting goals and guidelines with your new mentee. Set clear goals for the mentor-mentee relationship – and hold them accountable. Prepare a mentoring agreement to define communication guidelines – how often you will meet (virtually or face-to-face) and help your mentee network and create a “personal board” to help them succeed .
It’s easier than ever to be a mentor. With the emergence of new technologies in recent years – such as Zoom, Facetime and Teams – mentors and mentees have been better able to stay in touch and communicate more effectively. This was especially important during the isolation of COVID-19.
But the value of mentoring isn’t just found by those you help. Through mentorship, I found an increased sense of purpose. I find myself rejuvenated and energized working with students and young professionals. And I’m so proud of their accomplishments. Mentoring is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
Gail Rymer, APR, PRSA Fellow, provides strategic communications and public relations advice through her firm, Gail Rymer Strategic Communications, following a four-decade career that included senior positions at Lockheed Martin Corporation and the Tennessee Valley Authority. She is currently Chair of the Board of the non-profit Sertoma Center which provides full life services to adults with developmental disabilities.