Mentors: How They Help and How to Find Them
Deb Ward / DECEMBER 22 2020

How mentors help your career

Finding the right mentor can really accelerate your career. Especially in hospitality – an industry that loves to connect people, it’s one of the best ways to grow your skills. And you may need to find more than one mentor. As you progress through your career and your current relationship has given you what you need, feel free to move on and free up that mentor to meet with others. 

Most of the time, someone who has seniority in the business has worked in many different positions over the years. He/she has extensive knowledge and perspective and can share what he/she has learned to guide you. You can take advantage of that expertise by finding a mentor that helps you be your best self. Here are a few reasons why having a mentor in the industry matters:

  • Mentors help you improve by providing constructive criticism. They can identify areas that need work and expand on positive traits you may not have recognized.
  • Mentors help you connect with others by providing access to other professionals in their network and exposing you to opportunities that fuel your growth.
  • Mentors help you to learn more quickly by sharing expertise and information gained in their own careers. They can help you avoid mistakes they’ve made and provide valuable insights.
  • Mentors help you succeed professionally by guiding your career choices. They are positive role models that help you get where you want to go.
  • Mentors help you build confidence by cheering you on and helping you invest in further education, training, or other opportunities.

Mentors help you to carve out a path of best practices as you pursue your goals. They advise you, provide perspective, and make you accountable. They are often “older and wiser” but don’t discount other (possibly younger) mentors who can offer different perspectives. You may want to consider the following:

  • Choose a mentor just above you: someone who is one or two steps ahead of you professionally has just made the transition you’re seeking and may be able to give advice based on an understanding of where you are now on the career ladder.
  • A mentor just below you: here’s a way to stay current and interact with those with fresh ideas and open minds and may be more tech-savvy.
  • Someone who will be honest with you:  this is the person who will tell you the truth, whether it’s good, bad, or ugly. He/she will give you a heads up if you’re heading in the wrong direction.
  • A supportive mentor: this is the person who gives you positive reinforcement, tells you you’re capable and deserving, and keeps you going.
  • A mentor who is well-connected: He/she will help you achieve your career goals and put you in touch with those who can help you.

Finding a mentor

Hospitality is an art and the best secrets and tricks are passed on from one generation of pros to another. So how do you find a mentor? Many times, these relationships just evolve from working together and finding that someone is “taking you under his/her wing.” What should you look for? Here are some qualities:

  • Find someone you trust. You have to feel that he/she is invested in and believes in you. Someone with whom you feel safe to share your weaknesses, dreams, and concerns. It may be best if your mentor works outside of your company.
  • Think long-term. Find someone who is in it for the long haul that provides continuity over time and a contact with whom you can build a great rapport.
  • Look for experience. Someone who has worked in the area/sector you’re pursuing and made progress in that career will have a good understanding of what it takes to succeed.
  • The right mentor is a “giver.”  Find someone willing to help and make a difference. Sometimes we don’t like to ask for help, but when you find the right person, you’re more likely to succeed.

Once you find a mentor (or 3), think about your goals and what you want out of the mentoring relationship. Identify your career path; decide in advance how often you’ll meet and where…you don’t have to meet in person. You can use online video, email, or just talk on the phone. Keep it professional, set appropriate boundaries, and above all, be receptive and open.

With the right mentorship, you will learn best practices, successful strategies, and enjoy great connections to help you along the way. It’s a professional relationship where both parties are invested and it can really advance your career.