How to Find a Meaningful Hospitality Mentor

how to find a meaningful hospitality mentorMentorship is valuable for professionals of all ages and experience levels. For those who are new to the hospitality field, identifying, connecting with, and nurturing a relationship with a mentor is instrumental in career growth. Having a hospitality mentor to learn from and go to for advice also increases on-the-job satisfaction and can help perpetuate a positive cycle of mentorship as the mentee grows.

Research shows benefits of mentors for employees include:

  • Career success, including improvement, advancement, stability and satisfaction
  • Skill development
  • Professional networking
  • Increased salary
  • Better promotions and job offers

A stable and long-lasting relationship with a mentor is a meaningful partnership you can count on in the fast pace of the hospitality world. A mentor is someone who has experience and insight you can learn from, and who is willing and eager to share it with you. A mentor will help introduce you to meaningful connections in the hospitality industry, will share expertise that can help you do your job more effectively, and will support you in your endeavours while also offering honest feedback.

Here's how to find a mentor, how to build a relationship with one, and how to maximise the success of the rapport you have.

Qualities to Look for in a Mentor

Typically, a mentor is someone who holds a higher position than you in your career,  one who has more years of experience working for more employers. These qualities allow the mentor to impart wisdom you won't have when you enter the hospitality field or begin a new position. Suitable mentor targets you might immediately consider are your manager, the owner of your favourite restaurant, or a family friend who works in hospitality.

A mentor is often also someone you will consider a friend as your relationship grows. You want to approach a potential mentor you can envision having a long-lasting relationship with --someone you will feel comfortable with talking openly and honestly about your career goals, any fears or uneasiness you have at your job, and potential dreams and business ideas you might have. A mentor should not only be someone who dispenses amazing advice -- they should also be an empathetic listener and be someone who is willing to offer their time to learn about what makes you tick as a professional and how their acumen can best serve you.

Mentors give a lot of themselves, in terms of valuable knowledge learned through hard work, sage consultation and priceless connections. By being a mentor, though, they get to take pride in helping a new workforce generation succeed and get to pass on traits, tools and tips that will be integrated into the industry and last long after they leave. You might also be able to connect a mentor with beneficial new relationships, too. Think of a mentor relationship not as in what they can do for you, but how you can mutually benefit each other.

Tips for Approaching a Mentor

You've found someone whose career you admire, and whose personality you enjoy. If they're successful in the hospitality industry, chances are great they're extremely busy. It is essential to be respectful of your ideal mentor's time when approaching them, and to convey your genuine interest and admiration for them.

Having something in common helps you break the ice when approaching a mentor. Maybe you've worked for them for years already, or maybe you've just eaten at their restaurant every month for the past five years. When you reach out, tell them what drives your enthusiasm for their professional brand. You can briefly state your career goal and how it connects with what they're doing, to convey the relevance in mentoring you. If you set up a time to chat in person, offer to treat them to coffee or a meal to show your appreciation.

Your potential mentor may find it hard enough to juggle the responsibilities they already have, without taking on a new relationship. Be honest about what you're looking for. If you would like someone to be available to offer advice by email when you need it, express that. If you're interested in having an hour-long catch-up every couple months, tell them what you envision. By setting clear expectations, they can more easily evaluate whether being a mentor fits with their schedule, and they won't grow resentful if you contact them in the future.

Even if you're just starting out in your career, mention that you're willing to help them however you can, even if there is no obvious avenue to now. There might come a time when someone you know would be a perfect connection for your mentor. Even offering to be of service is a way to convey reciprocity in the relationship.

Make Mentorship Count

Your mentor is a wealth of knowledge, but they may not know how they can best help you. You can guide your mentor toward getting the results you desire. Whenever you meet, be friendly and sociable, but also come to a meeting prepared with questions you want answered or insight you need. Maybe you need help with knowing what to highlight on a cover letter, or maybe you aim to move from a server to a manager some day. Keep your mentor updated on your progress, and don't be afraid to ask questions they can help with.

Show an authentic interest in what's going on in your mentor's world. By simply listening to what they're currently working on, you may be inspired to ask other questions, or you might learn tidbits that will help you as you grow your career. After you've met with a mentor, jot down notes about what you talked about. This helps you to follow up on those points in your next meeting, and might spur a more meaningful discussion.

If there are diverse aspects of the hospitality business that interest you, such as opening up a new business or transitioning from service to management, you can also recruit other mentors from other industries whose work aligns with your overall career goals. Mentors don't necessarily need to be older than you, either. There is always something to learn from anyone you talk to. What you take away is up to the effort you put into developing relationships that matter to both parties.

Looking for hospitality career inspiration? Look no further than our Humans of Hospo series, where we highlight hospitality legends currently thriving in their careers. 

Want to create a career in hospitality you'll love and one where you can find mentors who care? Apply for hospitality positions with BENCHMARQUE today.

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About the author BENCHMARQUE

We publish articles to inspire and educate people to join the hospitality industry while providing best practice advice for owners and operators.


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