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Golden Rules to Keep a Mentor

Golden Rule

This is a guest post by Ken Jacobs. Follow Ken on Twitter.

As a coach, consultant, trainer, and adjunct college professor, I′m often asked by soon-to-be and new PR professionals for my assistance in their search for internships and jobs.

For the most part, these young professionals are extremely buttoned up, generous with their thank-yous and thorough with their follow-ups.

However, in the past six months, I′ve experienced a number of situations that lead me to believe there may be many younger job seekers who′ve never been trained in the "rules of the road" when it comes to asking PR pros for assistance in their job searches.

First I′ll share these situations, and then a few tips on how you can avoid similar ones.

  • I helped land an interview for an internship for one of my best students at an agency where I know the CEO.  A few weeks later, the student mentioned she hadn′t heard anything from the agency.  I asked what she had said in her follow-up to the firm, and the resulting silence made it clear she had sent neither a thank-you note nor a follow-up email.  She was apparently waiting to hear from them to see if she had landed the internship.  As you can imagine, it wasn′t offered to her.
  • One of my agency clients asked if I had any students who might make a terrific intern.  I had a great one, and encouraged her to contact them.   While she thanked me for making the initial connection, I heard nothing more, so I assumed that the agency declined to interview her.  You can imagine my surprise when I met with them a few weeks later, and learned that they not only had interviewed her, but had offered her an internship.
  • I mentored a young professional on an informal basis, and noticed a pattern that concerned me: I′d hear from her when she had a particular work issue, and I′d offer her advice to the best of my ability.  But there was never any follow-up regarding if that advice worked, let alone a thanks. But when a new problem arose, my phone would ring.

Here are some golden rules that might help newer seekers and "mentees" avoid similar situations:

    Until the End of the World hd

  • Within 24 hours of an interview, respond with a hand-written thank-you note, on the best possible stationery you can afford. If you′re worried that it will take too long for your note to arrive, precede it with a brief follow-up email.
  • When someone puts you in touch with a potential employer, be sure to thank them.  If the contact leads to an interview, let them know, and thank them again.  After your interview, follow-up with an email to share your perspective on the meeting.
  • If you′re being mentored informally, be sure to thank your mentor for their time, counsel and perspective, even if you don′t follow their advice.   Let them know about your successes, and in particular, when their advice has worked. Send an extra thank-you once in a while for good measure.

Please note that I′m not saying all Gen Y job seekers and mentees make these errors.  In fact, I′m currently helping two job seekers who are following all the rules, and then some.  Even after they′ve thanked me profusely at the end of every phone conversation, they send a note, an email, or a Linked-In message, and send me regular updates on their search.   In fact, a few minutes ago I got a LinkedIn message from one of them inquiring if his thank-you note had arrived.

I′d do just about anything to help these two job seekers.  And that′s exactly the way you want your mentors and job search coaches to feel about you.

Ken Jacobs is the principal of Jacobs Communications Consulting, LLC, which helps organizations grow business and develop staff through its coaching, consulting and training programs.  He can be reached at

Photo credit: Jack Crossen

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