Why mentoring works (and why it is never too late to start)

Why mentoring works (and why it is never too late to start)

This week I attended a travel related networking event which was great fun and while I was chatting away and old acquaintance of mine stopped me and said something along the lines of ‘You know I am still mentoring the lady you asked me to mentor all those years ago ? I must thank you because, I know I was initially sceptical and reluctant but actually I have gained a lot and she ‘has grown’ a lot and we still use the guidelines you gave me back then’. That really thrilled me but honestly; it did not surprise me in the least! The fact is, mentoring goes back thousand of years and it is a type of relationship that was understood and practiced already in ancient Greece. As a matter of fact you may not know that the word mentoring IS Greek! Why mentoring still works in today’s hectic work lives is because it provides professional and personal development that is highly customised, can be paced to suit the need of the mentee as well as the time constraints of the mentor and more often than not it offers learning on the job. These characteristics make it particularly suitable to the travel industry, where people are increasingly time poor and under pressure yet need to play catch up with the fast pace of change in technology, communication, marketing and so on. In addition, the travel industry is also one in which personal and professional life mix and the boundaries between work, private and public often blur. This means that we are always at work, even when we are having fun, and the opportunity to learn never stop. So if you have been thinking of finding your self a mentor, go for it, it is never too late because ‘everybody needs a mentor’…or maybe two or three! If the question is, where and how are you going to find one, there are two things you can immediately do:

  1. Clarify in your own head what you need a mentor for. In this way you will begin to form an idea of the person you need…a specialist, an all-rounder, a ‘techy’…or perhaps it is about the leadership qualities, the industry experience, the ability to open doors…
  2. Think about your extended network and where ‘that’ person may be ‘hiding’ right now! In particular think of: past colleagues and bosses; associations and professional bodies you belong to; current colleagues (possibly from different departments or locations); contacts you have made over the years at networking events, conferences, fam-trips and similar; Alumni networks from educational institutions. All that failing, simply ask around and you may get some names and recommendations of good people willing to take up the task.
    First and foremost, do not be shy! Most potential mentors will be flattered by your request. They may decline if too busy but more likely than not will try to help you anyway, by identifying somebody else or remaining in touch albeit informally.

As the colleague who stopped me the other night demonstrates, mentoring relationships can last over many years. Having somebody to support you, motivate you and challenge you when necessary is a luxury we can actually afford and should not miss the chance to embrace!

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Alessandra is founder of social enterprise Women in Travel CIC which she launched in January 2017 to provide communities in key regions (for example UK, Middle East, Africa and Latin America) with a sustainable livelihood by enabling women to become economically independent through entrepreneurship and a thriving career in the travel and tourism industry. Alessandra is also Chief Mentor & Consultant at Everyday Mentor, where she provides mentoring, coaching and consulting services to a range of clients in the commercial and public sector. Alessandra also collaborates with a number of Universities, including Hertfordshire, Normandy and Surrey. Alessandra is passionate about gender in tourism and has written and spoken extensively on the subject over the last 12 years, including at the United Nations World Tourism Day. She is well known as co-founder of Shine People and Places – a boutique outfit dedicate to supporting women in the workplace - and The Shine Awards for Women Achievements in Travel Tourism Hospitality and Events, which she ran between 2004 and 2010 before Sector Skills Council People 1st took them over. Prior to Shine Alessandra worked at KPMG, where she built the Travel & Tourism division, and the World Travel and Tourism Council. Alessandra has an executive MBA from the University of Ediburgh/Grande Ecole Pons combined; she is a qualified coach/mentor for performance in the workplace and she is a member of several industry bodies including AWTE and the UK Tourism Society.

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