By Lisa Bonatz
“There is no Tinder for career mentors. How can you match with your PR partner for life?”
We’ve all had that nervous thought: “What in the world am I going to do after college?” Sometimes, it can feel like you got stranded on your career path without a GPS (because let’s be honest … I would be just as lost with a paper map!).
As John Norris once said, "If you cannot see where you are going, ask someone who has been there before."
No matter what field, sport or craft one decides to pursue, finding a mentor can be integral to success.
Entering the workforce is an overwhelming experience. Every student faces a plethora of questions: “Will I succeed?” “Are they offering a fair wage?” “What will this job really be like?” Despite reading testimonials, watching movies (why are the evil businesswomen ALWAYS in PR?!) and scouring company websites, it is impossible to predict what day-to-day life will truly consist of.
Yet, we still must make choices and plunge ourselves into the terrifying unknown, or must we? What if the "unknown" was a little less ominous? This is where I believe a good mentor can truly make a difference. Gaining an inside perspective into a particular niche of the vast industry strips away a level of fear, affirms that everyone was once an intimidated newbie and reminds you that nobody has all the answers.
Some people seek out a mentor simply because they feel it is a required step to crafting a safety net for their professional journey.
If this is you, stop. Reevaluate your motivations.
Mentorships have their foundation in relationships … just look at the two words!
No successful alliance was ever formed from one-sided desire to check off an obligatory box. Don’t believe me? Just watch TLC’s “90 Day Fiancé.” (Tea.)
Mentorships should be approached with the intent of mutual benefit.
If your ideal mentor agreed to the partnership and asked what they could do to help you, what would you say?
Before you request an investment of time and energy, establish clear goals. Prove your commitment to the process.
OK, but once you have landed your perfect mentor and set clear goals, what do you actually talk to them about?
My unconventional answer? Failure.
As PR professionals, we are storytellers, but more importantly, I believe we should be story-listeners.
I enjoy learning about how people came to the point they are today, watching their eyes light with passion or dim with regret.
Even more, I love hearing about the catastrophes along the way that built them up, taught them lessons or even got them fired.
Why would I derive joy from these often cringe-worthy moments? It reminds me that nobody is perfect, but that does not stop people from having successful careers. Surrounded by inspirational students and with thousands of LinkedIn profiles at my fingertips, it is easy to see the people around me only as the polished professionals they portray themselves as online. Face-to-face conversations are a comforting reminder of life's true ebbs and flows. Uncertainty and failure are inevitable. Letting them hold you back is not.
Throughout my time at UA, I have been blessed with many mentors, both long and short term. Inspirational people roam the halls of Reese Phifer at The University of Alabama, teach your classes or are a message away on LinkedIn. Reach out. You will not regret it.
Getting excited about the idea of mentorship but need some help getting started? C&IS is here for you. Consider applying to the Oakley Society in the spring!
Lisa is a public relations and clinical nutrition student with a passion for running both campaigns and marathons ;). Her diverse interests drive her to be a copywriter, graphic designer, social media strategist, elementary school mentor, athletic recruiter and PRSSA’s VP of outreach. Want to learn more? Say hi on LinkedIn or Instagram!