Mentorship has a key role in the incentive and meetings industry -- maybe even more than we're aware of. Whether it's through a formal program or just asking for help on a project, many of us have reaped the benefits of it in our professional and personal lives. Having had experience on both sides of the mentor-mentee relationship, here is why I have found it important to get involved.
Mentoring can open up opportunities
Mentoring can greatly impact the course of a career, and my own experiences testify to its importance. Starting out in the incentive travel business, I worked for a company that didn't believe in the power of association membership. However, the mentoring I received made a major impact for my personal career. In my case, it was Madelyn Marusa, vice president of industry relations and global sales director for AlliedPRA, who helped me chart a professional career path. She helped educate me about being strategic and looking for the best opportunities to match my skill sets. I met Madelyn through volunteering for SITE SoCal, even before I became a member. Her experience and input made me aware that visibility through association membership was an important aid in moving forward in the industry. Her mentorship was especially significant in my life in 2009, when she introduced me to Ray Bloom. She subsequently recommended me for a consultant project, the year prior to the launch of IMEX America. Eight years later I'm still part of the IMEX team. This just goes to show how mentorship can open avenues that may not typically be available to you.
Madelyn got her own start in the industry with the help of her university sorority house. This informal mentorship led her to be recruited as a tour guide to run a "mini Olympics" for a pharmaceutical group, which was the start of a long and successful career in the hospitality field. As is common among those who have been mentored, she decided to pass on her knowledge, and she is currently mentoring two women in AlliedPRA as well as a SITE Young Leader.
Mentoring is a two-way relationship
Seasoned professionals pass on knowledge and experiential learning; mentees can provide a different viewpoint, fresh ideas and insights into new technologies. One of the individuals I've especially enjoyed mentoring is Mandy Brown, CIS, charter sales manager at Hornblower Cruises & Events. As a new SITE member, after volunteering at an event as a steward, she offered to help support the chair of a 5K run we were organizing. The proposed chair subsequently backed out and Mandy stepped in; the race was a huge success and this very talented and dedicated young woman is now president of SITE SoCal.
Mandy told me why her experiences as a mentee were so valuable: "I served as vice president of membership when Geraldine was president of SITE SoCal in 2015. She pushed me to be confident and think creatively. When I thought I had covered all bases of membership, she challenged me to come up with something new, and would plant a seed that I could grow! This was something that stuck with me and changed the way I think about leadership and life in general."
Being a mentor can be hugely rewarding and can create the foundations of a personal legacy. Madelyn summed it up for me, "It gives me great joy to share some history, war stories and best practices to help prepare those that follow me. I believe this is the biggest change in our industry today and wasn't available readily to me when I started. Curiosity is the best trait I found to be successful, so I encourage younger professionals to ask questions."
How can you get involved?
Mentoring is freely available throughout our industry. It's an effective, no-cost tool that can change the course of your professional and personal life. Many associations offer their own mentor programs, whereby people are matched according to their experience and their needs.
To find out if your association's chapter offers a program like this, search their website or simply ask. In the UK, Fast Forward 15 is an organization that matches mentors and mentees based on their specific goals. Program typically run for 12 months.
For a more casual option, a younger person entering the industry may just approach an experienced professional and ask for help. Facebook has recently pitched itself as a medium for matching mentees with mentors, making these relationships easier to access beyond geographical limitations. With so many opportunities in many different areas, being mentored can pave the way to gaining insights into a broad range of exciting new prospects. Be sure to look out for International Mentoring Month in January for inspirational stories from those involved with mentoring and further information on the value of mentoring.
As for me, with everything I've experienced on my gratifying journey through our industry, it's humbling to mentor others and give back by volunteering my time and expertise. I do it with immense gratitude -- I could never give back more than my career has given me.