In my last blog for Women in PR, I wrote about the importance of finding a mentor. It’s true that finding someone who will challenge and support you in your organization is a crucial part of scaling the corporate ladder. But it is equally important to build relationships with people outside your organization, and outside your specialist area.
I had worked in healthcare communications for over nine years when I decided to apply for the Women in PR/PR Week Mentoring scheme last year. Spurred on by a supportive former colleague, I was keen to meet someone at the right level of seniority who had the time to offer me advice and support and – most importantly – a fresh perspective.
I first met Nicola Green (@cola_green) for breakfast near our offices in Central London. She asked me about my background, my current role and my career aspirations. I am lucky to have spent the best part of the last five years working at an agency where the opportunities to shape your own career are endless. From taking clients to meet MPs in Westminster through to a secondment in the international healthcare team in Frankfurt, I have had many different roles during my time at Weber Shandwick.
Nicola was keen to help me make the most out of my current position. She offered me practical advice and support on some of the day-to-day challenges of my job. It was refreshing to have a completely open conversation with a senior woman in PR. Her experience in telecommunications brought a completely new perspective on my own career. When I got back to the office later that morning, I acted on her advice with regard to a new business opportunity. The result was a face-to-face meeting in the diary two weeks later – something our team had been chasing after for a long time.
Ever since that meeting, Nicola and I have had regular catch ups. We talk about my career aspirations, the challenges of my job and what it means to be a senior woman working in communications. From the start, Nicola encouraged me to reach out for support whenever I needed it. I contacted her a few times when I found myself in tricky situations that required a quick decision. Each time, Nicola was happy to give me her advice straight away. She put herself in my shoes and gave me sound counsel without any vested interest. It gave me confidence in my abilities, but it has also helped me make better decisions, which in turn has helped further my career. A fresh perspective from someone outside the world of healthcare communications, but who still understands my industry inside out, is invaluable.
When you work in communications, it’s easy to get stuck in the day-to-day requirements of your job. Meeting Nicola has reaffirmed how important it is to build relationships with people outside your organization. I now make sure I attend at least one event every month where I get to meet other communications professionals in different fields. I encourage my teams to do the same. Over the course of the past year, I’ve steadily built up my decision-making and leadership skills, whilst at the same time building up my internal and external network. The support I have had from Nicola, and my senior colleagues at Weber Shandwick, have helped to make this happen.