When you’re at the beginning of your career, you need guidance. And the good news is that there are a lot of people who want to share their knowledge with you. Usually, you connect with these people through a networking event or a LinkedIn message. However, these interactions can be tricky to navigate and a little awkward! But no worries, it’s now easier than ever thanks to PR Ramp.
In their own words: “PR Ramp is a public relations and communications association focused on helping students from the ground up. Our flagship mentorship initiative puts newcomers to the field in contact with practitioners for a one-hour Zoom call.”
Wondering if you qualify for the program? You need to be based in Canada and be either a student or a professional who graduated up to two years ago. To be connected with a mentor, contact the PR Ramp team at email@example.com to express your interest.
For more information, check out these links:
After launching in August 2020, PR Ramp connected fifty individuals with mentors in their first month of being active. They have over a hundred mentors so far and that roster just keeps growing, covering industries such as agency, corporate, government and non-profit and all kinds of job roles from PR practitioners to digital specialists to social media experts.
We spoke to the team behind PR Ramp to learn more about the association and how you can make the most of your mentorship experience.
What were your motivations behind starting PR Ramp?
Daanish Ahamed (Founder): There was a real need for an association with students as their primary focus. As a student, I was very involved—regularly attending CPRS/IABC events, speaking to as many professionals as I could—and quickly learned the value of mentorship and guidance.
Many students didn’t feel served by group networking events. It isn’t the easiest thing to strike up a conversation with professionals years ahead of you, especially when it seems like a lot of them know each other well. Most students are also worried they don’t have anything of value to say to a senior practitioner.
There was a demand for 1-on-1 sessions: less pressure, more intimate, and more casual. Students/grads had a specific need to feel comfortable, and so we saw a need for personalized communications. Students also struggled with finances—frequent trips downtown for events, membership costs, event costs. These costs add up and it’s hard enough fitting those in with the rigorous schedule of post-graduate programs that made part-time jobs virtually impossible. So, our flagship mentorship initiative is free of cost.
For me personally, PR Ramp functions as a great testing ground for new ideas—we don’t have a legacy to conform to and no traditions to uphold. Any ideas our team thinks is worth trying out, we try out. If we fail, we learn from it and try something else. This level of freedom is unheard of for recent graduates unless they start something on their own. Phil, our resident all-things-website, took charge of our logo and website design. Arvind’s going to be presenting PR Ramp to a class in October. Something we’ve built. It’s growing only because the audience we’re trying to serve, feels served.
Phil Kim (Digital Media Specialist): I connected with Daanish after he came to Humber College to present CPRS to our class last fall. He’d mentioned he was a filmmaker himself and I make videos for dance clients so we chatted about that. We kept in touch, and he mentioned wanting to create something by recent grads for students/grads. I was searching for an internship and figured it was a great chance to get some hands-on experience, make contacts and see where I fit best in the PR field. It’s really brought me outside my comfort zone; I don’t think I knew half as much about Squarespace as I do now.
Who are the PR Ramp team members and what are their roles at the association?
Daanish Ahamed (Founder) – Daanish coordinates mentors and mentees for the one-hour Zoom call, connect with folks who want to help us and plan ahead. Most of his time is spent on calls with students/recent graduates, to hear out their concerns and interests to ensure PR Ramp matches them up with the most-suited mentor. After that, he focuses on admin work: tracking who’s been connected with who, following up after their sessions, collecting feedback, etc.
Phil Kim (Digital Media Specialist) – Phil has been involved since before launch, and he primarily takes care of updating the website with new mentors, new pages, and any other new additions/fixes. He created the website and logo and is the regular consultant for all things design.
Arvind Bining (Social Media Manager) – Arvind’s responsible for the content on our social channels. She’s focused on planning and sharing content that would be useful for students/recent grads. She’s constantly on the lookout for social/digital opportunities to grow and keeps an ear to the ground for concerns that students/grads may have. Check us out on social; Arvind regularly shares mentor profiles, excerpts from media books and articles, and other useful resources.
Lais Miyagawa (Graphic Design Coordinator) – Our newest addition, Lais will be supporting Phil and Arvind with graphic design work, and helming some of our upcoming initiatives. Fun fact about Lais—she proved her value to the team by conducting a comprehensive social media audit of PR Ramp’s channels and identifying opportunities.
What kind of mentors are available to speak with through PR Ramp?
Arvind Bining: We have mentors from agency, corporate, non-profit and government; across sectors like health, finance, consumer, public affairs, media relations, crisis communications, etc. We have mentors across every level of seniority. Students and recent grads are encouraged to check out our roster. We’re sure they’ll find at least one mentor that aligns with their interests!
What kind of value can new grads take from connecting with a mentor?
Arvind Bining: It’s common to feel lost after graduating and our field is all about building connections. Connecting with mentors allows students to not only explore potential career paths but also build valuable relationships that can lead to resources in the future and learn to put their best professional foot forward. These are all professionals who’ve made their inroads into the field, and they’re well suited to guide mentees on how best they can position and present themselves for success.
How should new grads prepare for their conversations with mentors?
Arvind Bining: It’s important to research the mentors and their organizations before the mentorship session. Make sure you’re not using valuable time asking questions that could be answered by a simple Google search. Come prepared with questions to ask and take notes. Don’t be afraid to talk about non-work related hobbies (e.g. sports, books, cooking, etc.) if the mentor brings up anything of interest to you. The best connections are well-rounded!
Take advantage of the full hour. Yes, you can focus the conversation on the mentor, but still, make sure it’s an actual two-way conversation. You want the mentor to also leave the meeting feeling like they know you better so they’ll want to stay in touch in the future.
What are your aspirations for PR Ramp beyond the mentorship program?
Daanish Ahamed: Lots of irons in the fire! After each session, we follow up with mentees to ask if they have any concerns in the field, and we’re trying to tackle them in the future. One of the common asks was for a job board specific to graduates, and of course, Generation PR does this really well. Our role is sometimes just directing students and grads to resources that already exist.
Beyond this, we’re really trying to ramp up to our aspiration of ‘for grads by grads.’ We’ll be posting internship recaps real soon, just to give a sense of what the interview process and day-to-day responsibilities graduates can expect at specific organizations. Group panel discussions are on the docket; some mentors are willing to volunteer their time to speak on some common topics we’re seeing in our feedback surveys.
Beyond these specific things, we’d really like to grow a community of grads/students helping each other out, across college lines. I think it’d be so cool if Seneca and Humber students collaborated on resources for an assignment; or Centennial and Sheridan students came together for case competitions. When they’re out in the field, these peers will be their active network. Look at us even! Lais and I are from Seneca College while Arvind and Phil are from Humber College.
If anyone’s interested in keeping up with us, I’d recommend subscribing to our monthly recap newsletter. We cover our wins, challenges, concerns and feedback from the past month, and our goals for the next month. New initiatives and changes to existing initiatives are also listed here.
How can communications professionals get involved with or contribute to PR Ramp?
Daanish Ahamed: Giving us referrals is the biggest and easiest way anyone can contribute. If you know of anyone willing to be a mentor, for just a one-hour commitment every few weeks, tell them about us. If you know of any students or graduates who could use a one-hour session, tell them about us.
Being recent graduates ourselves, any support with PR Ramp’s expenses and expansion costs goes a long way. Check out our GoFundMe.
We’ve also been very fortunate with professionals that reach out to help us in any way they can. Monica Rossa took the time to coach Arvind and I on media pitching, sponsorship opportunities for PR Ramp, and connected us with other professionals. I check in with Linda Andross regularly to discuss opportunities and shortcomings with our initiatives. All advice and feedback from professionals are welcome—we’re learning as we go.
Are you looking for any students/recent graduates for your team?
Daanish Ahamed: We always are, but we’re looking for a specific type of individual: a true self-starter.
A fun fact about our current, all-volunteer team: they were all brought on board because they took initiative to bring value to our team from the very beginning. Phil took charge on designing our logo and website; Arvind proposed and designed mentor showcase templates for social media; Lais conducted a comprehensive analysis of our social media channels to identify opportunities. None of them asked how they could help. They saw how they could, and did.
It’s this kind of initiative we look for in our team members. We’re looking for someone who isn’t just doing this to add to their resume. All team members have extensive input on every new idea, and often take on the responsibility of executing on what they suggest. We’re all PR Ramp ambassadors.
If you want to join us, we’re looking for Toronto (or GTA) students/graduates who’re able to commit 7-10 hrs a week and are in it for the long haul. PR Ramp has only begun to grow, and we want our people to grow with us. We’re very flexible, and for better or worse our team has one cardinal rule: we decide on deadlines together, and we hold ourselves accountable.
If you’re interested, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll discuss what you can add to our team. Have a look at our newsletter, website and social channels and come prepared with fresh ideas on how you can help PR Ramp.