hands familyBy Mary Anne Keane

My first entry into PR was, let’s just say, a little unconventional.

The head honcho was never around, and as the saying goes, “When the cat is away the mice will play” was definitely at work.

So, I was thrilled when I moved into a job at the corporate headquarters of a not-for-profit.

I loved my job. I loved the people. And more importantly, I was learning a lot about PR and communications.

Within a year, however, everything changed.

The VP resigned, the director was right behind, and my immediate boss moved on to agency life.

I was 23 years old, low man on the totem pole, and “in charge” of the communications department.

I was terrified, but whittled my way though.

Searching for a Mentor

You can imagine how excited I was when they hired a new vice president with big agency experience. Now was my chance to learn from a real expert in the field. Someone who could mentor me to become the successful business person I had always dreamed I could be. But my fairytale quickly came to a screeching halt.

While I was looking for a mentor, she was looking to bring in her own people. I became a marked man. Nothing I did was good enough, most notably my writing.

I was besieged with negative comments and my self-confidence took a solid nosedive.

Needless to say, I high-tailed it out of there as quickly as possible. But what stayed with me for decades was a lack of self-confidence in my ability to write.

I went from pen-writing op-ed pieces for USA Today to struggling to write a simple news release.

All I really wanted was a mentor. Someone who could take me under his or her wing and guide me to become a real professional in an industry I was so passionate about.

Paying it Forward

What I learned years later, was that no one can take away your drive or passion unless you willingly hand it over to them. I eventually took back control of my own destiny and vowed, if given the chance, to be the mentor I never had to other young, driven public relations professionals.

We all have the ability to build those relationships with younger professionals who may not otherwise have the chance to learn and grow from an experienced practitioner. In doing so, we can help lead [groom] the next generation of PR pros.

This doesn’t mean you have to put an elaborate internship program in place. Sometimes it’s the simple things that make a difference.

Maybe it’s editing copy using a tracking tool so they can see the changes you make and learn to be a better writer.

Or allowing them to shadow you as you plan a media tour.

Perhaps you reach out to a recent college graduate who needs guidance and support through the interview process.

In today’s digital world a mentoring relationship doesn’t have to be in-person. Virtual mentoring can be just as powerful.

A 2011 article entitled The New Rules of Mentoring, from The Public Relations Strategist is still relevant today and has some great information on dealing with distance and virtual mentoring.

The bottom line is, opportunities to make a lasting impression on someone’s career are everywhere. Open your eyes and your heart.

What might take only a few minutes of your time may have a lasting affect on the life of a young professional.

Mary Anne Keane

Mary Anne is a marketing communications professional with more than 20 years experience serving a diverse client base, from international not-for-profits to some of the country's largest corporations. She specializes in project management where she is skilled at assessing clients' needs, incorporating their direction, and ultimately producing results.

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