Most expert-level professionals attribute their abilities—and success—to the guidance of influential people who taught them early in their careers.
When I learned this, I promised myself I would find a mentor by the beginning of the summer. I met this goal when I was able to assume a position that allowed me to immerse myself in the world of public relations and marketing.
Mentorship in the fields of PR and marketing is the key differentiating factor that separates those who can simply apply their skills to different tasks from those who truly understand the core purpose of what that field entails. Although the term “apprenticeship” is primarily used for trade professions, aspiring PR and marketing professionals should take an apprentice’s outlook.
This shift in attitude will pay dividends when it comes to optimizing and establishing your experience in PR and marketing.
A mentor will not only provide a different perspective and challenge you, but they will also impart different leadership experiences and cultivate your skillset through their guidance. Answering consequential questions and being shown the ropes is immensely valuable for someone new to any field. This immersion process is just like learning a new language, where constant practice promotes mastery.
The same principals hold true with PR and marketing; you must immerse yourself in the terminology, due diligence and demeanor of a professional in order to become one. Your mentors serve as your guide in this uncharted territory, as they are the “native speakers.”
Learn by making mistakes
The opportunity to learn from shortcomings and improve upon them is essential for young PR pros. In the entrepreneurial world, the saying, “fail early and fail often” is used to help entrepreneurs grow and become veterans in the field of innovation. While veteran status is earned by a select few, aspiring professionals should seek mentors who provide constructive feedback because it sparks the introspection necessary to spur professional growth.
While there are textbooks and resources that can teach you theory and show you case studies about PR and marketing, they are no comparison to tangible field experience. A good mentor will give you specific tasks with little autonomy or room for error—but a great mentor will believe in you enough to let you get your hands dirty, make a few mistakes and develop.
For young professionals looking for mentorship and guidance, understand that it is a privilege that is earned, not a benefit to which you are entitled. No mentor will trust you with critical tasks unless you’ve demonstrated your ability to meet deadlines, plan and organize projects and take initiative.
Students who want to hone their skills within an agency or an in-house setting should make an effort to maximize their potential to learn, and there is no better teacher than a seasoned professional who is willing to give you their time and attention in an effort to watch you improve.
Aidan MacIsaac is a public relations and marketing intern at Flackable, a national, full-service public relations and digital marketing agency headquartered in Philadelphia. A version of this article originally ran on the Flackable blog.