What do Oprah Winfrey, Jackson Pollock, Christian Dior and Richard Branson all have in common (aside from being super famous)? They all had important mentors guiding their pathway to success!
While it’s a popular assumption that successful people work their way to the top on their own initiative, the reality is often quite a different story. Many of the world’s most successful people had mentors for years. Everyone needs a little lift to get ahead, and that’s the same in hotels as any other field.
In today’s competitive hotel industry it’s becoming increasingly essential to have a mentor if you want to progress to the top. This is true across the board, but it’s particularly true when it comes to women in leadership positions.
A mentor can be that extra source of support, advice and confidence you need to make the leap from ‘doing well’ to ‘being amazing.’
If you want a successful career in the hotel industry, here are 4 essential reasons you need a mentor.
1. Benefit from life-changing advice from someone in the know
It’s not a mentor’s role to tell you what to do. Instead, they’re there to help you tease out your strengths, work on your weaknesses, challenge you, and help you identify different choices. They’re also there to help you think long term, develop some career goals and plan for the future.
A mentor is someone typically a few steps ahead of you in your career. Listen to what they have to say, and learn from their mistakes and their successes!
Whatever you’re dealing with, chances are they’ve been there already. This transfer of knowledge can completely change your approach to your role. Having more senior advice can do far more than teach you how to work more effectively: it’s about being able to see the bigger picture.
“The mentoring relationship benefited me with starting my first job outside of university. Kristian and I met every 4-6 weeks and he would help with any questions or guidance in where I wanted to take my next career move.
It was an open space where you could discuss work problems and Kristian was able to relate to problems, and helped me to learn how to address the situation in a professional way. He was a sounding board outside of work to help strategize my thoughts without any ulterior motives.” – Laura Wiersma
2. You can do anything when your mentor believes in you
Kristian Nicholls has been mentoring Laura Wiersma through the BMIHMS Alumni Mentoring program for over a year. Here’s what Kristian has to say about Laura:
“Laura is a very confident, mature and capable individual. She provided me with insight into the opportunities and challenges of commencing a hotel career today, particularly when you are from a different country. She also has a great perspective on customer focus and team dynamics. Laura is definitely a star on the rise, watch out!” – Kristian Nicholls (BMIHMS Alumni, General Manager, Bidding, at BESydney, Mentor)
Imagine you’ve just graduated, you’re a little shy, and perhaps not exactly sure of your strengths and skills quite yet. Then, imagine having someone in the industry such as Kristian, giving you positive reinforcement as in the statement above, as you move through your first job. There’s nothing more powerful than having someone you admire believing in you!
3. Mentors can open a door to key networks and opportunities
“You can never stop learning, and it is a given friendship that comes along with the program. Being able to connect with BMIHMS Alumni is a great asset, that can only help make those connections for the future.” – Laura Wiersma
Mentoring involves two people who share values and a passion for their work, who want to have a mutually beneficial relationship. Mentors choose to help out as a way of ‘paying it forward’ within their industry, and that’s a generous gesture. So, Mentors, as well as advice and confidence, can offer you their networks, potential job opportunities, or chances at internal promotion you wouldn’t otherwise be able to access. With all the years of experience they have, they can also help you to understand company culture, or individuals within a company from an inside perspective. They can coach you for interviews, or put in a recommendation.
But, remember, networks, information and job contacts have to be offered – you can’t go hassling your mentor to get you a job, or you’ll find yourself quickly without a mentor again!
4. Be a super-star employee with less stress
Research published in 2016 by Dr Sam Kim of the School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, analysed the emotional and psychological impact of mentorship on workers in the hotel industry.
The study found that mentoring helps less experienced employees to adapt to their organisation, and cope better with work-related stress.
Mentorship, or ‘role modelling,’ the researchers explain, can give employees greater confidence in solving problems and improve their overall performance. Their improved performance and confidence also helped them to manage role-related conflicts.
Not only were they more effective in their roles, they experienced less work-related stress. Who doesn’t want that!
A mentor is essential, but it can’t be just anyone!
If you’re at the beginning of your career in hotels, a mentor can help you with advice, build your confidence, give you access to their networks and ultimately will help you to adjust better to your workload, and with less stress.
The final question, is how get find one?
Fern Kanter is executive vice president and managing director of CHMWarnick, a leading hotel management company. With over 35 years of experience in the hotel industry, she’s taken on many mentees during her career.
She recently told Today’s Hotelier Magazine, “The relationship begins when you connect with a person. It begins organically, and it begins with helping.”
When you’re already in the industry, the best mentor for you will be someone who you already know professionally, someone that you respect and admire. See if you can’t pinpoint who that is, and begin working with them, or offering assistance in some way.
If you’re still studying hotel management, however, you may have the opportunity join a mentoring program through your school or college.
About The BMIHMS Alumni Mentoring Program
Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School started the Alumni Mentoring program to help graduates get a head start in the world. This voluntary program links graduating students and older alumni together, so that the whole BMIHMS student community can work together and help each other.
Since then, hundreds of graduates have participated in the program, and many successful mentoring partnerships have developed.
Laura Wiersma (graduated 2018) and Kristian Nicholls (graduated 1993) are one example of these successful partnerships.
When Laura graduated last year, she knew she wanted a little help and guidance to get her career started out in the ‘real world.’ BMIHMS put her into contact with Kristian, who was (and still is!) General Manager, Bidding, at ‘BESydney’.
“Finishing university was a great accomplishment, however I was unsure in what direction I wanted to take my career. In this case, I was starting on a six month maternity cover and was not sure what would happen afterwards.” – Laura Wiersma
“I was very fortunate to benefit from two strong mentors early in my career who gave me guidance, insight and confidence. I am a strong advocate of mentoring and was keen to be involved as an alumni.” – Kristian Nicholls
Laura and Kristian continued to meet up regularly over the next year, sharing stories and insights. The relationship became incredibly rewarding for both of them. Kristian was able to help Laura to adapt to her first industry position, at a really vital time in her career.
She’s now doing really well in her position, and she’s headed for a bright career in hotel management!