Three don'ts for PR job-seekers and ladder-climbers

How often do you hear this question: Will you be my mentor? And if someone actually asks you, you cringe and pretend that you didn't hear them.

How often do you hear this question: Will you be my mentor? And if someone actually asks you, you cringe and pretend that you didn't hear them.

The worst is: Can I pick your brain? These questions and other frivolous expectations are keeping some talented individuals from getting to the top and building meaningful relationships with colleagues in their industry. Nobody is pulling these people to the side and coaching them on how their delivery is missing the mark. Instead, their emails are getting ignored, and they are wondering what went wrong.

Below are few tips to help you get it together.

1. Don't ask me to be your mentor.
Stop asking people at the top to be your mentor, especially at your company. In my recent discussions with management at various PR agencies, I keep hearing that account executives are asking the EVPs at their firms to be their mentor. While there is nothing wrong with building a relationship with someone at that level, there is something inappropriate about randomly asking someone at that level to take on this type of responsibility. Keep in mind that you will never have to ask someone to be your mentor. They will either become that over time or they won't. Mentorship is not always about finding someone at the highest level to guide you. It is about connecting with someone with like-minded interests, who has experience and foresight.

2. Don't ask to pick my brain
This is one of the most requested “asks” in the communications field: Can I pick your brain? Every time I hear this, I just want to scream no! I hate this phrase, and it sounds like we are going to sit across the table while I hand-deliver my greatest ideas and best practices for free to a complete stranger. There are so many ways one's brain can be picked without ever having to ask. It's all about the delivery. Frankly, all you want is more information about a particular topic. It shouldn't be that hard to be specific and ask more questions on the subject matter. Essentially you are “picking” someone's brain without asking them.      

3. Don't expect an immediate response when you email me
Follow up, follow up, follow up. If you've emailed someone for coffee, and a week later you haven't heard from them, then follow up. Expect to follow up and don't expect that you will receive an immediate response. If you want something from someone, then you should expect to begin the process of “chasing” them. This is completely normal, and sometimes executive leaders want to test how bad you want it. If you send one note and never follow up, was it worth their time in the first place? Or are you passionate, hungry, and eager to learn?

Lauren Wesley Wilson is the founder and chief networking officer of ColorComm Network.

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