Since 2008, Taylor Bennett has set out to address the lack of ethnic diversity in the PR industry with an innovative PR training and internship programme. For ten weeks, six black and minority ethnic graduates are given intensive PR training, work-based experience and career guidance. They also get to meet industry professionals from a range of in-house, agency and media organisations. It is a fabulous scheme and in 2010 it won the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Award for Social Inclusion , which we are very proud of. Previous participants have already started successful careers in communications in firms which include Edelman, Brunswick, Cantos, Racepoint Group, MS&L, Freud, Talk PR, London Thames Gateway, Macbeth Media Relations and the Olympic Legacy Company. The success of the scheme means that by the end of 2011, nearly 50 graduates will have passed through the programme and that leaves us with a dilemma.
Until now, we have offered each of the interns personal career guidance, not only while they’re on the programme, but as they enter their careers and beyond. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to do this. We are a small organisation and while I adore all our interns, there are not enough hours in the day for me to run the programme, and to continue to support them regularly once they leave us. So, we are appealing to the PR community to step forward and act as mentors to these graduates – not only as they embark on their first PR roles, but throughout the lifetime of their careers.
Several PR practitioners have already put their hands up for this opportunity. We try to partner the mentors with grads we think will get the most out of their advice, and then ask that they try to meet up once a month for coffee to discuss their career aspirations. The rest of the time they are available by phone and email to answer questions and offer advice. We hope therefore that it is not too time-intensive, but that it gives the grads someone to turn to when they have a career question or issue.
Mentoring can be very rewarding. It gives you the opportunity to see a mentee progress and grow as a person. It also allows you to develop your management and training skills. Which gives you the chance to self-reflect – making sure that you regularly audit your own skills and professional development. It should also enrich your working experience. By keeping tabs on what junior people in the industry are up to, it enables you to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s new and should enhance your professional image.
For the mentees, it helps them to develop those all important networking skills and to gain a different perspective on how the profession works. It should give them confidence to speak to people more senior than them, teach them how to work towards goals, and give them experience of handling constructive criticism. In turn we hope that this will fire up their enthusiasm for the industry and inspire them to apply for jobs, and then develop their communications careers.
Our current mentors are:
Lisa Quinn, Taylor Bennett
Lily Lazarevski, Cut Communications
Nicky Rudd, Padua Communications
Nina Arnott, McDonalds
Sharon Chan, Consolidated PR
Magda Bulska, CHA
Howard Jones, CC Group
Chris McCafferty, Kaper PR
We are currently on the hunt for seven more mentors. Ideally you will have experience in the following sectors, but we are very open to anyone who has an interest in volunteering.
Professional services (particularly law)
You don’t need to be particularly senior, although you’re very welcome if you are, but ideally should have some experience of managing junior members of staff.
If you would like to volunteer as a mentor, please email firstname.lastname@example.org