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Ladies, choose a man as your mentor

23 September 2013 One Comment

A mentor is someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague, according to the dictionary, but in real life, having a great mentor can mean getting better career opportunities.

Mentors who have more seniority and power in their organizations can put their proteges on a career fast track. Studies have proven that having successful mentoring relationships result in greater career success including higher compensation, more promotions and greater job satisfaction.

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Leighblackall-76202401 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In general men and women receive similar amounts of mentoring, but the results are not parallel. This is because more men (78 per cent) are mentored by a CEO or another senior executive than women (69 per cent). This trend does not bode well for PR, a female dominated profession.

The top communicator in any organization is more likely to be a woman this is true, but with communicators under represented in the boardroom her influence is limited. As a result, mentoring in PR tends towards the dictionary definition.  It means focusing on hard skills development like writing, programming and project management. Mentees get to opportunities to meet influencers through their mentors including media professionals, business contacts, politicians and other ‘movers and shakers’. They can learn the business of PR along with the nuances of client management, how to navigate internal politics and some shortcuts to getting the job done well. Yes, mentoring in PR is crucial in terms of learning the craft and building expertise, but having a communicator as a mentor is no guarantee of career advancement.

I’ve been lucky enough to have benefited from mentoring relationships both as the mentor and the mentee. I was seven years into my career when I took on an account manager role at a British internal communications agency. That’s where I  met  a women who became my first mentor. She was more than my boss, she taught me much about helping communicators to work to their full potential by creating a positive environment and giving creative people the time and space to excel. From this woman I learned that when mistakes are seen as learning experiences and opportunities to grow instead of punishable offenses, everyone, the communicator, the client and agency all benefit.

I think it’s fair to say that professionally, I blossomed under this mentorship. I learned so much and gained confidence that after one year I was promoted to account director. Within another year, I was ready to take on the world! But my mentor was a department head, not an executive and therefore her influence was limited. Also, I was too impatient to ‘wait my turn’ so I quit my job and went out on my own. The decision was right for me at the time and I had a lot of success as freelancer, but what did it cost the agency to let me (and probably many subsequent proteges) walk away?

Mentoring is a reciprocal relationship; the mentor also gains many benefits and I’ve been lucky to have had the chance to mentor a number of young communicators over the years. As a mentor I continue to learn, (mentees have a lot of information and creativity to share), I build rewarding professional relationships and both my practice and my business benefits from great teamwork. Mostly though, I get a sense of fulfillment and pride when I see one of my proteges succeed.

But here’s the rub. I know that I’ve done my mentoring job well when my proteges move on. As a veteran communicator I’ve got the wisdom and knowledge to pass along, but I recognize my circle of influence is somewhat limited, so I encourage my mentees to find a C-suite mentor to help take their careers to the next level.

This article was originally published on Thornleyfallis.ca.

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