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Robin Williams mentors Matt Damon in one of the most underappreciated movies of all time, “Good Will Hunting”
Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed, and have participated in, lots of conversations on Twitter revolving around what it takes to succeed in PR. Is it the experience you get from internships? Is it the education you receive from attending grad school? Both are important. But speaking from personal experience, nothing has taught me more than what I’ve learned from mentors.
When I left the world of sports journalism in the winter of 2005 and was hired at a mid-size PR agency in NYC, I was as excited as ever. I was also more nervous than I’d ever been. I had never taken a PR class in college, didn’t know anyone in the profession, and was incredibly scared of failure. So what got me through those critical first few months? Having people that I could look up to, ask questions of, and scrutinize the way they handled different situations with clients.
I was one of the lucky ones that first year into my new career, and two people that particularly stood out were Chris Hayes (@C_Hayes) and Joe Vasquez (@PRFlipside). Whether it was learning how to write a pitch or how to respond to client requests, these guys never turned me away when I came knocking on their doors looking for answers. Not only that, they began sending me random e-mails with links to news items that were relevant to publicists. They shared blog sites with me, pointed me in the direction of valuable conferences I might want to attend, and even spoke to me about difficult topics such as salary and how to negotiate. Without these two friends, and the other mentors whose knowledge I continue to tap into to this day, I never would have made it past an entry-level position.
I often speak to senior-level management about what motivates me and why I’d stay at a current job as opposed to looking for new opportunities (not that recruiters are knocking down everyone’s door in this economy!). How many of you would say ‘money’ as the prime motivation for being happy? Not gonna lie, that doesn’t hurt! For me, the primary goal is to work at a place where I’m continuously learning new things and being challenged. If I’m not experiencing different things then I’ll never learn from mistakes, make the type of income I want to make, and I’ll certainly never reach my full potential as a publicist. And learning can come in many different forms: new clients, different account responsibilities, or leading a team initiative. However, no matter how many opportunities I may get to do those types of things, I’m certain that I’ll never do them nearly as well if I don’t have a mentor(s) to see me through.
I’m not trying to say the secret to life is having a mentor, or that this philosophy doesn’t apply to other industries. But I’m a publicist and this has been my experience, which is why I wanted to share it with you.
Thanks to everyone that continues to help me reach greater heights. You know who you are.