A group of Toronto-area PR professionals have launched a free mentorship service for some of the approximately 800 PR graduates hoping to land a job in the industry each year.
PR Ramp launched last month with a goal of “helping students from the ground up.” It brings PR students and recent graduates together with PR/communications professionals from the agency, corporate, government and non-profit ranks.
“We saw our organization as a way for students to get elevated into their career,” says founder Daanish Ahamed (pictured), who runs the organization with digital media specialist Phil Kim and social media manager Arvind Bining. “It’s literally a ramp into a PR career.”
Ahamed first conceived an organization capable of providing one-on-one mentorship while serving as president of the student steering committee with the Toronto chapter of the Canadian Public Relations Society.
The CPRS would hold monthly networking events, where Ahamed noticed that many of the students attending felt uncomfortable in a group setting. “I figured that a more intimate setting would be better,” he says.
The original plan was to launch PR Ramp with in-person sessions in March, but the pandemic forced the group to pivot to a Zoom-based model. The one benefit of conducting sessions remotely, says Ahamed, is that it has allowed PR Ramp to expand its geographic reach into markets like Calgary, Vancouver, and in one case even Great Britain. “That wouldn’t have been possible in our previous iteration.”
Backed by outreach from several PR professionals, PR Ramp has more than doubled its mentor roster from 40 to more than 100 people since launching. Mentors include people from PR agencies including Edelman, Weber Shandwick and Argyle; corporations including TD, CIBC and Coca-Cola; government entities including the City of Toronto, and non-profits including Kids Help Phone and the Ontario Brain Institute.
Fifty students have signed up for mentorships, with PR Ramp facilitating about 15 one-on-one Zoom sessions in the month since it launched. “Some of the mentors have gone above-and-beyond what we asked for,” says Ahamed. “They’re offering to review resumes, do mock interviews and to stay in touch beyond the one-hour we asked them for.”
Ahamed, who graduated from Seneca College’s PR program in 2019, says that the importance of the right mentor can’t be overstated in an unprecedented environment for young professionals, particularly as internships have been suspended or cancelled outright, and jobs are at a premium.
“I realize that students can find great value in talking with experienced professionals, who probably have a few crises—although maybe not to this magnitude—under their belt and can speak to how to best position or present themselves for job opportunities,” he says.