According to ancient mythology, when the Greek hero Odysseus left for the war of Troy, unsure about when and whether he would return, he entrusted his young son to the care of his friend Mentor, to ensure he would teach them everything the young prince needed to know to grow into a fully rounded adult. Since then, the action of mentoring has entered both, our professional and personal world and left the exclusive realm of princes and heroes to benefit a huge range of individuals and, more poignantly, women+.
According to recent studies, employees with mentors are promoted five times more often than their non-mentored peers, and 87 percent of employees with mentors feel empowered by their relationships and attribute greater confidence to the experience. In one study, retention and promotion rates for women participating in mentoring programs increased from 15 percent to 38 percent.
Our own work at Women in Travel CIC (WIT CIC) provides further evidence that women+ respond extremely well to mentoring throughout their working life. Over the last 5+ years, we have offered mentoring in one way or another to over 2000 women+. Be it one-off or longer-term conversations, group, peer, reverse or one-to-one mentoring, women have consistently told us the following :
- Mentoring is a positive, often inspiring way to learn in personal and especially professional circumstances.
- Mentoring creates safe spaces in which women+ feel able to be authentic, ask important questions, and share ideas whilst remaining in control of the speed and depth at which the learning takes place.
- Mentoring can be used for several purposes, which can be summed up as: exploration of and progression in one’s career; developing confidence and leadership traits; learning the rope of entrepreneurship and/or scaling up (including problem solving) and specific knowledge transfer.
If you are a woman+ in travel and tourism who has been thinking about seeking mentorship to develop yourself, your corporate career, or your business, you are definitely on the right track!
However, to ensure that you can make the most of mentoring and give yourself the best chances of success, there are at least 3 key questions worth thinking about before you begin the process, so read on.
1) Why am I seeking mentoring?
Whether mentoring is being sought for career or enterprising objectives, clarity of purpose is key to success. Some objectives require longer-term exploration, and mentors specifically identified with those objectives in mind. Others may be borne out of initial, top-line ideas of what someone wants to achieve, further developed into actionable outcomes with the support of the mentor. Either way, it is important to prepare for any type of mentoring relationship by asking oneself questions such as: What are my priorities for the mentoring relationship? What would I not be able to achieve without a mentor? What will I do differently or better because of the mentoring?
Jotting down key thoughts, reflections, and even possible performance indicators will help this process, especially if we refer to them and discuss them thoroughly at the initial meeting(s).
2) What type of mentoring is best for me?
As briefly mentioned above, mentoring takes place in various forms. While in our experience, women+ respond well to all of them, there are differences. Group and peer mentoring is mostly collaborative and focused on shared learning; problem-solving is often at the heart of the conversations that take place in the group, and individual focus is inevitably limited. However, the group provides a strong network and a kind of personal board to the individuals, who feel at the same time supported and inspired by everyone’s work, story telling, and purpose.
At WIT CIC, we use peer mentoring (we call them Mentoring Circles) to provide learning and development opportunities and foster networking, particularly to self-employed, micro, and small entrepreneurs who otherwise navigate the world of business mainly on their own, lacking the resources and circumstances needed to access additional consulting or advisory support.
‘We’re all on different paths, united by the desire to succeed. We have added expertise and value to each other’s journeys and had a space to reflect on self-purpose while being part of a special sisterhood. [It is like having] a mini boardroom to give you thought diversity, to bounce ideas off, and to broaden your goals and aspirations’
The monthly circles become an anchor or reference point in a context where taking time out is seldom possible, yet much needed by the individual to foster perspectives and learning from a diverse range of sources, particularly at times of crisis (for example, the recent pandemic) where women+ globally came together in our Circles to try and make sense of the challenges faced daily by the travel industry.
‘[At a time of crisis] it makes you feel like you are not alone, there are other people that face the same challenge. Sharing our problems also helps to find solutions or being inspired by other ways of thinking.’
One-to-one mentoring is, on the contrary, centered on a one-on-one relationship. This naturally brings much greater focus on the individual mentee and her specific needs/challenges, with more time available to explore scenarios and possible outcomes.
‘[working with my mentor] It is helping me step back and look at the bigger picture of my business and how I can move things forward.’
Equally, one on one mentoring requires complete trust in the mentor and time to develop and complete tasks in between meetings. The right match is essential to one-on-one success as well as the parties’ commitment to stick with the schedule, follow up action points and discuss goals and objectives for the relationship.
‘I work alone and often feel overwhelmed. My mentor is helping me move beyond this with practical help and support. ‘
3) How will I access mentoring?
Even though it may appear a simple logistical matter, this is often the point that stops individuals from accessing mentoring. Whether it is because they lack access to individual mentors or they fear rejection; whether because they are geographically located where there is no such mentoring network, many women+ come to us because they have no support where they are and relieved to find an organisation that provides such support independently from geography.
When seeking mentorship, there are a range of networks where to access mentors:
- Alumni organisations – from education institutions such as Universities, accessing Alumni network may help you identify and existing mentoring programme or meet someone willing to act as mentor to you.
- Professional bodies – if you are in the travel and hospitality sector, professional bodies may provide access to mentors who are experienced professionals in exactly your own field. Often these individuals have had successful careers and want to give back, so are very willing to support.
- Women+ groups – be it professional networks, volunteering organisations, sector specific groups or business referrals groups, women+ to women+ mentoring is becoming more common be it one-to-one or in small peer groups.
Ultimately, regardless of the network, what matters is that the right mentor is accessed, and that means putting in the prep work before asking anyone to mentor you or joining any peer-to-peer group.
As a woman in travel and tourism who has been facilitating mentoring for the past two decades, I cannot stress enough how valuable a tool mentoring is to develop yourself, your business, and your career. Just like any other tool, it needs investment, but the outcomes can be outstanding when done properly. If you feel stuck, if you are seeking different perspectives, if you wish to grow your business, or a preparing for a career promotion, the is no better time to access mentoring!
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About the author
Live from: London, England