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Throw Down a Ladder

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Mentor Mentor

My first professional job title was director of public relations for a Gold’s Gym. Sounds pretty impressive for someone who just graduated from college, so of course I accepted. This lofty position was not bestowed on me because of my experience, but rather because the gym owner did not want me to go work for anyone else, because I was instructing group fitness classes five days a week. Of course, I would need to maintain that aerobics schedule in addition to my new position as the gym’s public relations director.

If my 40-something self could go back in time and be my 20-something’s mentor, I would have told myself to not take this position, and find a job where I could be guided by a professional in my field. I would have pointed out that this gym owner’s only intention was to keep me on the group fitness schedule and when gym memberships dipped, my “PR job” would be the first to go, which is exactly what happened.

If you don’t have a mentor early on in your career, it doesn’t mean that you are doomed. I eventually made it. However, I know that I could have shortened the learning curve and found success sooner if I had one.

Why Mentor

Mentorship has become quite the buzzword in business. If you are just starting in your career, you should have one, and if you are more experienced you should be one. The pressure to find a mentor or to be a mentor is there, but how crucial is it to your career? Mentorship sounds time consuming, which is probably why most people avoid it. But whether you are the mentor or mentee the benefits can be mutually rewarding. When I am the mentor, I feel energized with new ideas and possibilities. My own advice also reminds me of what I should be doing in my career. When I am the mentee, it gives me new perspectives into my career from someone who has already encountered the challenges. Whether or not I take the advice, hearing it gives me a framework to consider how to proceed in my current situation.

Pick a Protégé

The more senior we become in our careers, the more we tend to sit back and let the young professionals find us for guidance. But what if the experienced professional was actively picking his or her own protégé? By turning the tables on the mentorship selection process, we can change the dynamic of the mentor-mentee relationship.

The right protégé can blow up some of your paradigms, expose you to fresh ideas, and present new ways to solve problems. So, picking the right person to mentor should be a thoughtful and selective process.

Becoming a mentor puts accountability on you to keep growing professionally. When you have a mentee, you always have someone watching you so you must bring your A-game at all times. Giving someone else advice and guidance will also give you more confidence when you see that your methods work in others, and not just yourself.

Make Moments Instead of Time

If the idea of mentoring someone sounds too time consuming, make moments instead of time. A moment might look like an invite for coffee or lunch, or it could be a phone or video chat. You do not have to make long-term commitments to be a mentor to reap the benefits.

I am currently in multiple mentorship relationships, but I have to be proactive with all of the mentees or these moments never happen. Even just having four moments with one person in a year can make drastic advancements in your career and theirs. When a mentor reaches out to a mentee, you are rarely denied the opportunity to meet. Just tell the mentee you want to “catch up” and offer to buy coffee or a meal. They rarely refuse such opportunities. Virtual meet-ups also work, but phone catch-ups can be highly effective, too. I find I can easily squeeze in mentee phone calls when I am walking my dog or headed to my next meeting. Don’t get so hung up on having an agenda or solving a specific problem. Plenty comes out of these mentee discussions without a specific goal in mind.

Share the Wealth

One of the things I have never understood about climbing the proverbial career ladder is the idea that you have to suffer on the way up to earn your stripes. Why not just give the less experienced the driver’s manual to succeed instead of standing by and watching them crash and burn at every turn?

I have helped launch nearly 50 careers through mentoring others. My mentees have found success and multiple professional opportunities much quicker than I did in my career. This gives me great satisfaction to know that my struggles to get where I am today are benefiting other younger professionals in the public relations field.

Though my advice to these mentees may seem obvious and simple to more experienced professionals, it has been absolutely career changing to those who are just starting out or starting over. In fact, my advice in areas like communication, networking and problem solving, was the premise for developing my latest company INICIVOX, which provides short voice tutorials to improve soft-skills communication. These mentorship-style tutorials called, “The Pitch with Amy Summers” are offered free of charge through www.INICIVOX.com or anywhere podcasts are heard.

There are many ways to share the wealth of your knowledge with young professionals. Record and distribute your advice on social media. Write a blog. Perhaps start with the professionals right in your own company, by initiating a monthly mentorship meet-up coffee break. By taking the lead in sharing the wealth of your career knowledge with younger professionals it also sends a big message to mid-management that mentorship is important and making people suffer their way to the top is not tolerated. In the end, everyone benefits, especially your company.

Throw the Ladder Down

If I told you that my entire company was run by interns, would you freak out and not hire me? I hope not, because it is. This is how much I believe in mentorship. My company is built on the power of throwing the ladder down and building people up in their careers.

Pitch Publicity is gearing up to celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. Because of this upcoming milestone, I have been reflecting on where I started, and how I got to where I am today.

I have a lot of confidence in young professionals and their abilities, because when I built Pitch Publicity I was also in my mid-twenties. The paid mentorship internship program at Pitch Publicity is a launching pad for careers. This means no one typically stays with us for more than two to three years before they move on to bigger career opportunities. For my protégés, this means they get hands-on work experience that is truly resume building and empowering; one-on-one mentorship from me including instant feedback and day-to-day guidance; plus, real-world, in-person professional experiences that cannot be experienced in a classroom. For me, the mentor, this means I always have a diversity of ideas running through my company; the performance energy is always ambitious and motivated; and there is no fear of failing when you do not know what you do not know (yet). Running a mentorship internship program is time consuming, but highly productive if done properly. In the PR agency world, there is a stereotype that junior level employees do not know what they are doing, and service will be subpar if you are assigned one to your campaign, but combine a highly motivated junior with a seasoned executive and the combo of mentor/mentee employee is unstoppable.

There are not many awards handed out for throwing down the ladder of success. But investing in the future of your profession through mentorship reaps rewards far more profound than another trophy to clutter your office. Professionally investing in the future of others will bring more productivity, collaboration and creation of ideas that will result in more motivated teams and happier customers. Most of all it will bring more fulfillment to your career, of which, I am sure, my future 60-something self will be thanking me. NIE

Amy Summers launched Pitch Publicity in 2003, and is credited as the first to strategize live media interviews at both the deepest and highest points of the planet. In 2020, she launched INICIVOX to help individuals improve a wide-range of soft skills centered on the complexity of communications. Her microcast, “The Pitch with Amy Summers,” is one of the most highly rated flash briefings on Amazon’s Alexa. Summers earned her Bachelor of Science degree in public relations with a minor in health science education from the University of Florida and currently serves as board member and founding partner of Naturally New York. Learn more at: www.pitchpublicitynyc.com and www.INICIVOX.com. Receive free daily pitch tips from “The Pitch with Amy Summers” flash briefing on Amazon’s Alexa, Google Play, iTunes, Spotify, Audible, Pandora and anywhere voice is heard: www.INICIVOX.com.

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