You're never too young to be a mentor - or to offer hope

Hope lies at the heart of mentoring. I was reminded of this several weeks ago when one of our students (I'll call her "Emily") landed a great PR job despite this tough, turbulent market. Everyone was excited for her, but the real story is what Emily did next: She reached out to other students who were anxiously seeking work.

Hope lies at the heart of mentoring. I was reminded of this several weeks ago when one of our students (I'll call her “Emily”) landed a great PR job despite this tough, turbulent market. Everyone was excited for her, but the real story is what Emily did next: She reached out to other students who were anxiously seeking work.

She offered boundless encouragement, reviewed résumés, helped develop contact lists, shared her interview experiences, and did what she could to help fellow students find jobs. And she did so in a supportive manner that resonated with students.

At age 21, Emily became a mentor.

The value of mentoring to professional development and advancement is well-known. Most organizations and associations use mentoring programs to help young professionals. Education provides mentoring opportunities for students through campaign classes, internships, and shadowing exercises.

Mentors play two primary roles. They help protégés develop professionally with coaching, career advice, challenging assignments, and introductions into social networks. They also provide psychosocial support through friendship, role modeling, affirmation of work, and candid evaluation of performance.

But mentoring does something at a deeper level, too: it helps shape our beliefs and values. A survey of 222 senior PR professionals, which we conducted with Heyman Associates in 2008, found that mentors and role models exert by far the greatest influence on practitioner beliefs about appropriate leadership values and qualities.

I don't know how many students Emily touched in her last weeks on campus. I only learned what she'd done when four students told me on graduation day. But her story illustrates two lessons.

First, you don't have to be a seasoned professional to be a mentor. You can reach out to help and guide others at any stage in your education or career. Second, while mentors help others develop and advance their careers, they also can give one of the greatest gifts we are able to share with others: hope.

That's what the students were talking about on graduation day, the hope that Emily gave them.

Bruce Berger is professor and chair of the Advertising & Public Relations Department at the University of Alabama. Previously he was VP of PR at Whirlpool. His column will focus on PR students, young professionals, and education. He can be reached at http://cms.haymarketmedia.com/Pages/berger@apr.ua.edu.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.