Friday, January 8, 2010
Mentoring..."I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends"
I've had conversations with two different public relations professionals this week, both of whom had questions about their careers. Although this isn't unusual (either the questioning or the conversation), it did get me to thinking about my commitment to helping others.
As I mentioned in an earlier posting, I was blessed with an amazing mentor in the early days of my own career. Clinton Parks was my internship supervisor at the US Army Training and Doctrine Command's Public Affairs Office, and he went out of his way to make sure that I learned every aspect of managing a PR department's operations, including proper filing of paperwork and other seemingly mundane tasks.
When I completed my formal training, I was given several choices for a permanent assignment, from which I chose the US Army Intelligence School, Ft. Devens, Mass., where I would serve as the School's Public Affairs Officer. What a totally ego-enhancing experience that was and, for three years, I ran the entire PR operation for a major military educational institution.
More importantly, Clint kept in touch...unobtrusively...but he kept in touch. Somewhere in the phone conversation would come: "How's it going?" "What have you been learning?" "What didn't we teach you that you wish you had known?"
As he noticed that I was starting to establish my own network at the School and on the post, Clint eased up on the frequency of his contact, but he didn't stop. And I always knew that, if I had a question that I was sure no one else would have the answer for, Clint was always there in spirit... and a telephone call away.
He didn't have to do this. In fact, it was several years before I actually realized what he was doing. But he did. And I was the beneficiary of a true public relations professional's caring, concern, and commitment.
Today, some 30 years later, I understand what Clint was doing. He cared deeply about the public relations profession, and he wanted to make sure that the interns he sent out into the "real world" both knew what they were doing and, more importantly, knew that there was someone just a phone call away who could advise, suggest, or...sometimes...just listen.
At both Curry College, where I oversee the public relations concentration and teach most of the PR courses, and Regis College, where I teach graduate-level communication courses, my students know I am always just an email or phone call away...and they take advantage of the opportunity to learn from my experiences, my mistakes and...yes...my successes.
Whether you're in an academic setting as I am now, or in a practicing professional setting, I hope you will take Clint's example to heart. When someone approaches you for advice, take the time to listen. Reflect on your own experiences as you were moving up in the field. And give that individual your best advice and counsel.
When you do reflect on your own experiences, remember...we all get by with a little help from our friends...or mentors!