Great, you’ve got a mentor! Now what?

Image credit: Julian Dodd|Haymarket|BME PR Pros

As we all try to navigate the unexpected changes Lockdown has brought to our working life and our careers, the support and guidance of a good mentor could just make the difference to many of us.

My own recent experience as a mentee was as part of the 2019 BME PR Pros mentor matching scheme. This year, another cohort of BME PR Pros mentees are about to learn from the expertise of their senior peers, and I’d like to take the time to reflect on my own experience, and some important points that helped me to get the most out of my mentor relationship. 

What is BME PR Pros?

Communications as an industry was arguably born out of government advisors and spin doctors back in the ‘40s, and has since evolved into the largely self-funded, privately-owned operations we see today. It’s no wonder that the agencies see little top-down representation that’s truly diverse, given where it started. 

The BME PR Pros scheme is the brainchild of PR veteran, entrepreneur and well-networked individual, Elizabeth Bananuka. She doesn’t get paid for the privilege and believes in the mission so much that she runs the entire project, which has backing from PR Week as a volunteer. Among many things, its sole purpose was to root for talented black and Asian PR individuals to get them the careers they deserve, and for the sector to benefit from their talent.

I was paired with the incredible Reesha Rajani, Golin’s Commercial Director. Aside from the fact that she boasts 20+ years of experience in commercial PR agency life, she’s also one of the warmest and most encouraging women I’ve ever met. And has (probably) the best head of hair in the industry. 

Being part of BME PR Pros was an exciting experience. However, there are a few nuggets of advice I would offer to anyone else connecting with a mentor directly, or entering on to a mentorship programme regarding how to make the most out of the time and relationship. 

1. Ask for feedback. Either from your mentor, or whoever selected you to take part in your mentoring programme. Dare to ask “What do you see in me and my future that you’re hoping you/my mentor can help to nurture?” – You may be surprised to hear what comes back about your perceived strengths.

2. Set a goal for what you want to achieve within your mentorship, and structure every mentor meeting to bring you closer to it. Agree ahead of time with your mentor what the focus of each session will be so that they have time to consider what guidance to give; it also allows your mentor a chance to source input from their pool of equally experienced contacts in the industry. After that, try to set short-term objectives that help you feel like you’re growing and ticking things off. Try to focus on two or three important things versus several goals to make the best use of time.

3. Try and connect on a human level with your mentor. Ask questions about how they got to where they are, and take an interest in their life. It may initially feel like a transactional relationship, but you’ll be spending hours with this person, communicating with them for at least a few months – or, with any luck, longer if you hit it off. Enjoying your time with them will help you squeeze the most out of it.

On a mentoring scheme?

4. Finally, if you’re part of a mentor matching programme, find ways to interact with your cohort. The BME PR Pro mentees of 2019 still interact today, cheer each other on, swap ideas and pass opportunities and information between us. There’s power in connectedness. 

To the BME PR Pros mentee class of 2020, I wish lots of luck and energy. And I want to extend a big THANK YOU to Elizabeth Bananuka for seeing more in me than I did, and to my mentor Reesha Rajani for really showing up for me.