Joan Tuaño shares her experience about getting a mentor – one of the best moves anyone can make for their career.
Having a mentor is a good thing. You can ask them questions or seek guidance from them; they can motivate you to persevere to achieve your goals.
I’ve never had one though, and it seemed unclear to me how exactly I could go about finding such a person who could have a separate yet strong presence in my professional life.
When I was waiting for my US visa to come to St. Thomas, my dad encouraged me to attend the Gulf Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings (GIBTM) Exhibition in Abu Dhabi. Always excited at a chance to dress up and meet new people, I jumped at the idea.
Upon entering the exhibition, I decided to attend some of the seminars, and I stumbled across an exciting one on Global Trends in the Event Industry. Never had I been so enthralled by a speaker, and by words that I felt truly related to my thoughts. I felt captivated by the presentation and by the end of the session, I just wanted to land a job with this guy, or work in whichever industry he was involved in!
I took the speaker’s business card, and found a moment with him later on to pour out my passion for hospitality, sales, and connecting people and businesses together.
He invited me to do an internship, but I expressed that I was interested in something bigger, more long-term. I then remembered that I still had a year’s internship to go in the Caribbean, so I thanked him for his time and said I would get in touch about opportunities in the future. He invited me to join the Society of Incentive and Travel Executives (SITE) as a Young Leader. I said I would look into it, but being that I still didn’t really have an actual job, I postponed the thought.
One day, during my second month on the job in St. Thomas as a Club Level Concierge, I had the opportunity to converse with a powerful businesswoman. She told me, “Joan, you will be great, but it won’t be with my business. You need to find the person with that job. The job that you want in ten years time.”
That sentence struck me. What is that job? After pondering for a few minutes, I realized that it was David Sand’s job. The President of SITE, and owner of his own incentive travel company. He believes in efficiency, good people, the power of connections and genuine concepts. After telling this businesswoman that I found out who that person was, she said to me, “Good. Now email him, and ask him to be your mentor”.
And so I did! I emailed him with the subject line, “Mentor me?” I told him how I was absolutely sold by his seminar at the exhibition and that I wanted him to be my mentor. After we secured certain guidelines as to what type of mentoring process we wanted, we engaged in an online mentoring relationship. It was extremely beneficial as I was going through organizational challenges in my internship, and he provided insightful encouragement.
Anyway, early last year he invited me to the SITE Global Conference, which was held in November. I was absolutely delighted as it was so close to St. Thomas (the year before, it was on the Great Wall of China!) and booked my participation and tickets as soon as I could. It was amazing. Everyone, from all kinds of event companies, convention bureaus and tourism boards, to young leaders like me from all over the globe, were united under one roof! There, we weren’t competitors, but opportunities to each other.
There were seminars and I even managed to gain an Incentive Project Management Certification after two days of classes during the conference!
The connections I made were priceless and I can easily contact highly-skilled, influential professionals in my industry now, having simply shared a conversation with them at the Site Global Conference.
So. Who has that job that you want in ten years time? If you open your mind, you might already know him, or her! Get moving, get connecting, and grow yourself. No one else will do it for you. A mentor does not have to be someone in the exact same industry as yourself, but I think he or she should as much as possible share your beliefs in terms of good business practice. Try not to pick your parents, but someone who can give you an unbiased opinion and advice on what to do when challenges or questions arise.
You can do it.