The call for applications for the next cycle of the EACD’s mentorship programme is underway. Launched last year, the programme offers talented junior and mid-career public relations and communication professionals a year-long mentoring relationship with selected senior EACD members. 52 EACD members started the programme last year following a selection progress: according to the programme lead, Médard Schoenmaeckers, “it is fantastic to see how incredibly positive and valuable the programme has proven to be for all involved. We will expand the 2017-18 programme to allow for more mentor pairs.”

During a 12 month-period, the programme aims to create trusted relationships that will enable both parties to benefit from each other’s energy, ideas, experience and insights. Following the first meeting at the European Communication Summit in June (www.communication-summit.eu), the pairs usually meet once a month (either in a call, video conference or face-to-face). To get some insights into the programme, we asked a few current mentors and mentees to reflect on their experience of the programme so far.

Sharing experiences

Why should busy senior professionals take time out of their packed schedules to take on board this added obligation? Several mentors we spoke to mention the opportunity to share knowledge and experience, and to repay a debt of gratitude for a mentoring experience they themselves received earlier in their own careers. Elisabeth Mattes, for example, has enjoyed senior roles at such diverse organisations as the University of Vienna, Telekom Austria Group and Altstoff Recycling Austria. Her motivation to become an EACD mentor was to share her experience to younger managers to help them foster their own career. “My motto”, she told us, “is the whole match is a lot of work - but I can give you a couple of recommendations to win some tiebreaks.“

With such busy workloads and packed schedules, both mentor and mentee must make a commitment to the programme, as Henriette Viebig, head of group corporate communication at the international technology group Körber, recommends: “A clear must is to fix meetings early and it needs a special kind of discipline to stick to these when the daily business hits in.” That’s not to say that time spent on the programme is not relevant to your daily job, as Henriette points out: “I feel this is time well spent as I am learning again myself or refreshing certain topics.”

Indeed, the mentors interviewed for this article all agreed that they have learned from this programme as much as the mentees have learned. As Tomas Jensen, chief marketing and communications officer at EIT RawMaterials, argues, “A mentor that does not learn from the mentee is not doing it right. I have (again) learned how important it is to constantly be excited about what we do in communications, question what we do, reach out and ask for help.”

Gaining knowledge

According to several mentees, the benefits of taking part in the EACD mentor programme are manifold. For Katie Bird, head of communication at ISO Central Secretariat, the appeal was highly practical. She explains “I feel like I have a lot to learn in my current role, and who better to learn from than those already doing the job in other places? I liked the idea of being able to talk to someone who has already experienced the challenges I was currently facing. The fact that this person would be in a communication role appealed as it meant that I wouldn’t need to spend time explaining the details of the profession before we could get down to meaningful things, which can be the case with a mentor outside the business.”

Along with practical career advice and a front-seat perspective on the demands of a senior position in communications, there are other, rather more unexpected lessons to be drawn from the programme, as Ivana
Spotakova, communications manager for pharma company Novartis, explains: “That truly sometimes, success and failure are just matters of perspective. I used to stick with the thought that once I failed in something, I‘ve lost an opportunity forever. However, gaining knowledge from my mentor taught me that there are unspoken rules that can be critical for success and that there are other ways to go where you want to be; I still have my two feet and I can walk going there.

Above all, our interviewed mentees feel that their participation in the programme has had a real impact on their careers. Based on her experience, Helen Kemp, group communications manager at UK-based waste management company Shanks Group, recommends it to her peers: “The programme has helped me hugely! Firstly my mentor’s advice and support has been really beneficial during a particularly busy year plus my his network of contacts have meant I can also further my relationships with like-minded professionals. I’d highly recommend the programme to any young communicator
looking to broaden their horizons.”

If you qualify as a mentor and would like to contribute to the development of talent in the communications industry, we encourage you to apply by filling out the online application form and upload your CV here: https://www.eacd-online.eu/activities/mentoring/mentor-application-form