Can't Have Too Many Mentors

This is a guest post by Meredith Robertson, one of SHIFT’s Account Managers in Boston.  Meredith’s been with us for 5 years, and in that time — for various good reasons — has had 5 different managers.  That’s a record at our shop.  Some folks would be disgruntled by all the change, yet Meredith has thrived.  I asked her to reflect on her experience…

IStock_000009004916XSmallLet’s face it – if you’re in the field of PR/marketing, you handle a whole lot ‘o variety on any given day.  It’s what keeps things interesting, challenging, fun.  Having experienced agency life for the last five years at SHIFT, I’m certainly no stranger to it myself.  From address management software to personalized photo books, CAD medical devices to IP software protection tools, I’ve had a wealth of PR experience in a relatively short amount of time.

Guiding me along the way, I’ve been fortunate enough to work directly with almost all of the Agency’s VPs, each of whom is a veteran PR guru in their own right.  Truth be told, it’s uncommon to have this level of exposure to so many different managers in the early stages of your career.  However, SHIFT’s culture is flexible enough to welcome internal management moves like this, and I’m all the better for it.

Of course there’s certainly something to be said for working 1:1 with one mentor, if you will, from the start of your career.  You have the chance to establish a solid foundation and build up a rapport as you work toward the common goal of developing into the best damn PR rock star around.  Period.

Still, when it comes to professional development, the “less is more” credo doesn’t apply in my book.  You wouldn’t necessarily pitch two reporters with the same angle, nor would you give your clients the same counsel on a similar issue.  Variety.  Perspective.  It’s what separates the PR flacks from the PR pros.

Think about it: we spend so much of our time helping elevate clients’ thoughts, missions, goals and objectives – we thrive on it.  But at the end of the day, you’re doing yourself a disservice (and in the long run, your clients) if you don’t give your own development the same time and attention.  From SHIFT’s perspective, as well as my own, we have each shown that investment every step of the way.

Of course, the concept of multiple mentors isn’t a new one.  In fact, according to this article, Rhoda Weiss, former CEO of PRSA, believes having numerous internal, as well as external, resources to guide you on your career path is a vital step in making the journey from PR novice to PR leader.

I couldn’t agree with Rhoda more.  To date, every VP I’ve had the pleasure of working with at SHIFT has brought a completely different perspective to the table.  And if the mark of a true PR pro is the ability to bring a variety of perspectives together and turn them into something that resonates with both mainstream press and analysts, as well as bloggers and social media mavens alike, then perhaps the road to PR enlightenment is best traveled with friends – and lots of ‘em.

What have your mentors taught you?

Posted on: December 29, 2009 at 7:45 am By Todd Defren
18 Responses to “Can't Have Too Many Mentors”


  • Meredith says:

    Thank you all for the valuable comments and insight – and especially for sharing your personal experiences as you each navigate your own career paths (with multiple mentors in tow)! For what it’s worth, a few key takeaways I’ve learned along the way that I hope will be helpful to you as you continue to explore your own mentor relationships:

    •Speak up, speak often – As PR pros, this is our credo. The foundation of any strong relationship (whether with your mentor or your clients) is based upon the open and honest exchange of information. Build credibility by coming to the table with questions and have an opinion. You may not always hit the bull’s-eye, and yeah, it may seem awkward at first, but you can’t win if you don’t play.

    •E-V-E-R-Y-THING is a learning opportunity – That early AM TweetUp? That “preliminary call” you’re asked to just listen in on? You’re being asked to participate in these things for a reason, and that reason is you have something to offer – and your mentor knows it. Learn to recognize why they’re giving you certain assignments. What may seem like a mundane task now I guarantee you will, even if not immediately, be applicable to your future in PR – and beyond.

  • Tim Otis says:

    Hi all,
    I have one solid mentor for PR. Three years I ago, I approached him via phone introducing myself and how I’ve been going about my professional development. It’s been a real delight to have him continue to guide me– even involve me in some of his client work– as I continue to develop my own skill set. Oddly enough, as the supervisor of social media/pr for agency GdB, I’m still trying to convince my mentor the value of social media! We’re all trying to convince our clients of the same thing, right?

    Thankfully, there are blogs like this who make our jobs even easier.


  • Under full disclosure, I’m lucky enough to be one of those VPs Meredith mentions. I think it’s worth saying that each one of us “Mentors” in turn learns more about guiding and team building with each budding PR star with whom we have the pleasure to work.

  • David Spinks says:

    Absolutely. Having multiple mentors is a huge resource for any professional. I think I have around 10 right now! Of course, there are different levels of commitment with different mentors as well. You may be extremely close with some, and less committed to the relationship with others, depending on time and other factors.

    Miguel Llano actually guest posted on my blog about having a “board of mentors” before, if you’re interested…

    Community Manager,

  • I’ve had 4 mentors since March, so I can truly appreciate your positive attitude, Meredith! I agree that once you learn how to best communicate with your new mentor there’s a huge benefit from gaining their perspective and integrating it into your own for personal growth. Love the post and can’t wait to read more.

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