How Mentors Can Boost Your Career in the Incentive and Events Industry

A relationship with an experienced travel and motivation leader can expand your professional opportunities.


Mentorship has a key role in the incentive and meetings industry. Whether it's through a formal program or a more casual relationship, many of us have reaped the benefits of mentorships in our professional and personal lives. I've had had experience on both sides of a mentor-mentee relationship. As January is International Mentoring Month, I'm sharing the reasons why mentoring is so important.

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 from an association made a major impact for my personal career. In my case, it was Madelyn Marusa, DCMP, CIS, CITP, founder of MM Hospitality Consultants, 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 her 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 when she introduced me to Ray Bloom, chair of the IMEX Group. She subsequently recommended me for a consultant project prior to the launch of IMEX America. I was part of the IMEX marketing team from 2010‐2020, and now undertake specific projects for them as needed. This is a great example of how mentorships can open avenues that may not otherwise be available to you.

Marusa 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 has passed along her knowledge to other professionals in the events industry.

Mentoring can be 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, CITP, senior producer at Within3. As a new SITE member, 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 went on to serve as president of SITE SoCal. 

Brown told me why her experiences as a mentee were so valuable: "You pushed me to be confident and think creatively. When I thought I had covered all bases of membership, you 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 said "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 in mentoring?

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 that match members according to their experience and their needs. 

Contact your association chapter to see if they have a mentorship program. In the UK, Fast Forward 15 is an organization that matches mentors and mentees based on their specific goals. 

For a more casual option, a person entering the industry can reach out an experienced professional via a social media platform like LinkedIn. 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.

 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. 

Geraldine Gatehouse, CIS, CITP, is an independent planner and writer, providing marketing and communications services to the meetings & events industry. She can be reached at her website.