This is a guest post by Solo PR Pro founder and former president, Kellye Crane.
Lately, I’ve seen many cars sporting a paw print bumper sticker with the pro-adoption motto, “Who Rescued Who?” Poor grammar aside – and keeping in mind no one in our scenario is a dog – I find a lot of parallels between this sentiment and the experience of mentoring a talented intern.
Whether to work with an intern or hire an assistant requires some thought (Mary Deming Barber lays out the considerations in PR Interns or Assistants – Which is Right for You?). Since most of us understand that interns aren’t free labor and there is a real time commitment involved, we often think of mentoring interns as an altruistic activity – one that allows us to “give back” to others and help further the future of our profession.
All of that is true, but in fact there are many self-serving benefits to mentoring an intern:
- Form a valuable connection – As your mentees progress in their careers, they often have opportunities to recommend and/or hire you. Through your friendship you’ll gain access to their growing professional networks – paying dividends for years to come.
- Learn new approaches – It’s easy to become stuck in a rut and formulaic in our approach to client problems. An intern brings new energy, ideas and a fresh perspective to your practice – I like to say they keep me young!
- Identify your areas of weakness – A good intern will ask a lot of questions, and – especially with new and emerging tactics – there may be times you struggle to answer the question “how” or “why.” It’s obviously better to find out gaps in our understanding when dealing with an intern than with a client.
- Improve your communication and management skills – Solo PR Pros have to be skilled communicators not just with our publics, but with clients. How clear are you in your explanations and instructions? Working with an intern can be a great way to find out!
- Find a long-time collaborator – If your skills and goals align, there is always a possibility your intern could become a longer-term employee or subcontractor. It’s hard to find good help, and an internship allows you both to test the waters on a trial basis.
The Biggest Benefit – Fulfillment
I’ve worked with and advised many professionals over the years, but the joys of mentoring for me are exemplified by my relationship with Jennifer Spivak. Jennifer began working with me as an intern while in college and continued in her position as Solo PR Pro Community Specialist on a contract basis after graduating. She helped with everything from social media to event planning – playing a pivotal role in putting on our first Solo PR event in Atlanta.
When a unique opportunity to play a lead role in a social media firm presented itself to her, I had to summon my strength and encourage her to take it. This is also part of being a mentor – thinking of what’s in the best interest of your mentee, not yourself.
Jennifer had always been a Facebook wiz, and in the years that followed she further strengthened her prowess in social media advertising and analytics (as well as other offerings). She became my go-to resource for questions on this topic – the student had become the master.
So when Solo PR Pro first joined forces with the Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA) Conference in 2015 to help develop a program jam-packed with sessions of interest to the Solo PR Pro community, it was natural to have Jennifer share her expertise in a session – Upgrade Your Digital PR Campaigns With Facebook Ads: Secret Strategies for Success. As I sat in the audience of the session, blown away by the content and tips no one else knew, I beamed with pride to hear attendees say things like: “I’ve attended several conferences in recent months, and that was the best session from any of them!”
Now, Jennifer Spivak is a smart and talented individual and would be successful whether she had worked with me or not. But to have been part of her journey – and to benefit from her skills while she worked with me – is one of my career highlights.
If you have the time to invest in mentoring, working with an intern can truly be a win-win. Do you have any former mentees you’d like to tout? Brag away and share what your experience was like in the comments!