Mentors are invaluable resources in the public relations industry. Betsy Plank, the god-mother of PRSSA and the First Lady of PR, once said “Mentoring is really one of the strongest ways to spell success in public relations.” Mentors are the link between the pre-professional and professional world, but they can also be an important part of your career. In any industry and at any age, mentors are an amazing source of knowledge and are a great asset for personal growth.
In this blog, I have gathered a list of things that mentors either taught me or helped me to understand in Public Relations.
Set Your Boundaries
At my first internship at the Nevada Museum of Art, I worked with the Communications Director Amanda Horn. The communications department at the Nevada Museum of Art is a one-woman show. Amanda does everything from event promotion to running social media. Even with all of the communications avenues Amanda is in control of, she placed a heavy importance on setting boundaries. She told me “If you reply to that email at two o’clock in the morning, they’re going to always expect a reply at two o’clock in the morning. Set your boundaries and stick to them, nothing is THAT important that it can’t be handled later.” PR professionals are always connected to a constant stream of media and information. If you don’t set boundaries, it will be difficult to ever find a work-life balance.
What Would You Do At Home?
A mentor I had before coming to the PR industry was my manager at Bath and Body Works. Angie Ubhoff is an intelligent and fearless store manager. She taught me more about business than any of my other mentors. In my first month of work at Bath and Body, a customer accidentally knocked over a glass bottle of massage oil. The oil spilled all over the hard wood floor, causing a huge slipping hazard. In my frenzy to clean it up, I couldn’t decide which cleaner to grab. I was frantically grabbing several different sprays, a mop, a broom, a duster, anything that might be the appropriate way to clean oil off of the floor. Angie saw me struggling through my decision and tells me “Snap out of it! What would you do if you spilled something at home?” “Well, I’d just grab some paper towels and maybe some spray.” “Okay! So do that!”
Young professionals in PR are often the same way as new fresh-faced 18 year olds working in a lotion store. We’re unsure of ourselves or of our skills, and we try to over-complicate things. Simple misread emails or scheduling conflicts can become all-out existential crises for the inexperienced young professional. If you ever have to clean up the PR equivalent of spilt massage oil, think “What would I do at home?” The simplest solution is usually the right one.
Know When You’ve Taken On Too Much
This lesson is one that I’m still learning, but the biggest help in this journey to the perfect work-life balance is Alison Gaulden. Alison saw me grow from a scared Freshman student sitting in her LinkedIn workshop at my first PRSSA meeting to being the over-committed, constantly tired, caffeine-fueled President of PRSSA in a few short years. The entire time through my metamorphosis, Alison urged me to be aware of how much time I was committing to give to all of the things I was involved in. I shrugged off most of her advice and didn’t listen. I kept getting asked to do these awesome things that sounded wonderful and that I enjoyed doing. So, naturally, I kept saying yes. Then my personal life began to suffer from my inability to find more than 24 hours in a day. That’s when all of Alison’s gentle reminders became glaring red flags.
Knowing when you’ve taken on too much is one of the most difficult things for young PR professionals to learn. In an industry driven by experience, most young professionals want as much experience as possible, especially before they graduate college. This isn’t the best way to get experience, as any senior suffering from burnout can tell you. If you fill your schedule with things that you may not have time for, you won’t be able to dedicate the necessary time to more important experiences. This can lead to disappointing coworkers, mentors, classmates, and yourself. The best way to avoid exhaustion and disappointment is to know when to say “No, thank you.”
Every good PR professional knows, it’s all in your messaging. But many people can get caught up in the messaging of their personal brand, and end up damaging their own reputation. Edward Estipona, the President and Founder of The Estipona Group (and my employer) once told me “Be sure not to drink your own kool-aid. The minute you start thinking you’re better than everyone is the minute you lose.”
In our industry, we can get caught up in our personal brand. If we don’t remain humble, we’ll never learn from our opportunities or properly celebrate our strengths. By keeping a level-head, and approaching every project or campaign with the same amount of passion, we can grow as young professionals and truly sharpen our craft.
Mentors are an important part of life. No matter what age you are, you should always seek someone who knows more than you.
JamalEdeen Barghouti is a senior at the Reynolds School of Journalism. He works part time as a PR and Social Media Coordinator at the Estipona Group. He is the Director of Operations for Wolf Pack Relations and the President of PRSSA Nevada.