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From PR novice to professional: The importance of seeking out mentors

Rohan Moorthy

Standing at the starting point of a career journey can be nerve-wracking and a tad stressful for many. The venture into the unknown and the many questions that may arise in the early days often could make one feel overwhelmed. While some may take flight immediately and soar ever higher in their career ascent, many others may need more of a helping hand. 

Enter the familiar concept of a mentor. But it would be important to answer a few questions before reaching out to any senior veterans. These include a) what one expects to get out of a mentorship b) what sort of frequency would be a good fit i.e., once a week, once a month etc. c) possible duration for the desired mentorship and d) would one need more than one mentor to help strengthen both the work and non-work aspects of life. 

Diving deeper here are several steps that could provide structure and focus in relation to the aforementioned.

a) The roots of oneself: Keeping a video, audio or written archive is helpful and allows one to list out or express all their views about themselves, observations of their work and environment, as well as what aspirations they have for the time ahead. Further, when one subsequently finds a mentor, they could continue to document how they are progressing and conduct a six-month or annual review of the previous entries. This is a helpful exercise to follow as it could provide further impetus to further one’s development as well as acknowledge how far they’ve progressed.

b) Career and lifestyle tree: Before listing out folks who could be reached out to, it is important to also reflect on the areas within the professional journey one estimates they’d need support in i.e., people relations, conflict resolution, new business presentation etc.

"Beyond work and developing as a person, it is advisable to reflect on what other areas, passion projects etc. one would like to find solace in and excel at."

c) Lower branches to higher ones: Identifying several individuals with the firm one operates in could be a helpful start. Though, one should rank them according to how they each could serve to help one develop skills and thinking wise. Plus, looking at veterans outside of the regular organizational framework one is in could be a consideration as well. At times seeking counsel from a mentor in a different field can have its advantages. However, it is important to keep in mind that discussions with a potential mentor or mentors should also have a certain wall of confidentiality especially when it comes to work-related. 

So, whether one has a mentor in the same firm or say an industry association or even on the client side etc. discretion should be practised.

d) Ripe for the picking: A potential mentor should ideally be someone who one can have a heart-to-heart conversation with. Personal traits to look out for could include patience, candidness, and empathy. Along with this, it’d be advisable to also look at the years of experience as well as the viewpoint of fellow peers i.e., how is person x viewed as a leader and how people-oriented are they.

e) The importance of the season: Do remember the role of a mentor is to not only serve as a confidant but as someone who could invest a portion of their time to aid and assist. So, it is important to factor in what type of engagement frequency works for both. In some cases, a leader/ veteran may decline when approached either due to availability or lack of interest. Whatever the case, one shouldn’t feel dejected or let down by that. Things may change in the future so one should have patience. In the interim period, one may adopt

what some refer to as a “distant mentor,” who is someone that one may have zero contact with but whose public content and discourses are relevant to one’s professional growth.

f) The constant gardener: While one is able to receive the counsel of one or several individuals it is equally important to commit to what type of tangible efforts one will take to transform their situation or learning curve. Timeframes with specific deadlines are helpful in keeping one honest. So, setting those with a mentor is crucial. Alongside the action commitments, reviewing the options available to one by their firm in relation to coaching and training is good to review with one's mentor as the latter could provide more guidance on what one should pursue.

g) The harvest: One should be prepared and keep in mind that a mentor may be available for a certain period of time. Either of their own accord or of the mutual need discussed between both mentor and mentee right at the start. Though that doesn’t mean

one should sever all contact once things come to a close. Rather, it’s important to share significant victories with one’s mentor(s) from time to time, as it’d be heartwarming for the latter, given the time and effort they put into you. 

Though, saying goodbye might feel strange this old saying sums it up well – “when the student is ready the master appears, but when the student is really ready the master disappears.”

Rohan Moorthy has worked both at a PR firm and corporate side. In addition, to his professional duties, he is also a visiting faculty member at the Xavier Institute of Communications (XIC) and the Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication (SIMC).

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