PR students have had the importance of networking and mentors engrained in their minds since their first day on campus. Most teachers would argue that it’s “all about who you know” that will help you land that first job out of college. Mentors help you prepare for the real world better than any class ever could. And with today’s tough job market, developing a networking opportunity into a mentorship can be more important than ever, but that doesn’t mean it should be any harder than it was before.
Traditionally, in the mind of most students, networking refers to establishing professional relationships with accomplished individuals in their field of study. But mentors come in all shapes, forms, positions and ranks. PR students may be lucky enough to be paired with a mentor through PRSSA, or fortunate enough to be referred to a special CEO that will help them get their toes wet in the vast PR ocean. But for those less fortunate souls struggling to find a willing professional, mentoring should not be as out of reach as they may think.
One relationship that students should not, but often do, overlook, is an opportunity to pursue a mentor relationship with another student or recent graduate; in essence, a peer-to-peer mentorship.
Consider this: Who was in your shoes just last year? Who knows what it is like to go through the job search in this economy? Who knows exactly what employers are looking for in a portfolio, from experience? Who better can share information that will hit close to home throughout your college career? When thinking it through, a recent college graduate sounds like a perfect mentor option.
Students can pursue a P2P mentorship by continuing contact with senior classmates as they enter the job market, reaching out to young account executives or networking with other students who may have young professional contacts as well. By keeping in contact with someone currently searching for a position, students can learn what is working, what is not working and how they can better make the transition from school to industry. Also, by seeking out a mentor still in classes, first- or second-year PR students can benefit from the knowledge of what professors are the best to network with, which classes provide the best learning experiences and what extracurricular programs to get involved in.
Mentors don’t need to be “old” and mentees don’t need to be close to graduation; start these relationships early! It’s easy to make friends of and at all ages, and friendships are the easiest relationships to develop into peer-to-peer mentorships. These P2P mentorships may not be as formal as a traditional mentorship, but it can be easier to ask tougher questions or easier to relate to someone considered a friend first.
Also, if you’re in the process of looking for a mentor, consider being that mentor for someone younger in the future. Make yourself accessible throughout your senior year, and reach out to a student you think you could impact. Whether it be a friend, a student in your PR classes, fraternity brother or sorority sister, someone you met through PRSSA or just someone you have noticed and have taken an interest in, let them know you’re willing to help them.
Peer mentors have the opportunity to help mentees apply for scholarships and internships, better develop portfolios and resumes, counsel them on what steps to take closer to graduation, discuss the obstacles faced after graduation, or even practice interviewing; the possibilities and opportunities for P2P mentorship are endless. The profound impact a professional mentor may make should not overshadow the potential impact of a peer mentor. Please consider this option if you are struggling to find a professional mentor or if you believe yourself to be a resource to future graduates. If a new friendship is the least that develops from your troubles, you can still justify your efforts. After all, aren’t friendships what networking is all about?