Comment: The case for mentoring newbies in the hospitality industry

It's the right time to help others

Opinion, Comment & analysis, Training, Mentoring

The year is slowly drawing to a close and we’re all busy with the festive season, Halloween’s been and gone, UAE National Day, Christmas dinner previews, and, of course, the all-important New Year’s Eve celebrations. It’s easy to forget that Christmas time was once referred to as the ‘season of giving’, when mince pies, cookies and crackers are swirling past at breakneck speed.

Do we ever get a chance to take some time out unless we’re on holiday? Probably only if we pencil it in our diaries or set a reminder in our online calendar.  If you ask your boss (or yourself, if you’re the boss), if you can take next Wednesday off, the answer is probably ‘No’, but if you ask if you could spend next Wednesday giving back to the industry, the answer may well be,‘Yes, of course!’

I’ve been attending a few events recently that were platforms to ‘give back’. Not charity events, but networking events for start-up companies or entrepreneurs or aspiring hospitality managers. We all need a helping hand and it’s great if we can get it from experienced industry professionals.

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Taking some time out to give back isn’t the same as a holiday on an exotic island, but it does allow you to leave your usual comfort zone, take a few steps back, look at things in a different light, and can leave you energised and refreshed.

Your company might already have a mentoring scheme and it’s a good idea to take part in it or, if there’s no scheme yet, start one yourself. Mentoring colleagues is just one of many ways you can give back to the industry, which, for most of us, has provided employment and put food on the table.

If you’d rather get involved outside your current company, you could join one of the many mentoring schemes for start-ups. There are several in Dubai and the other emirates, whether it’s in5, Womena, or Turn8, and many of them feature start-ups with ties to the hospitality industry. I’ve mentored budding entrepreneurs who were building a self-service 360 degrees photo machine for use in hotel resorts, mobile apps that give small restaurants a better way to attract customers during off-peak hours, and even food delivery start-ups. It’s fun, often challenging, and occasionally even rewarding (if the start-up you’re mentoring makes it big), and I promise you that you’ll learn a lot of new things in the process.

If you’re lucky enough to hold a post-graduate degree in hospitality, leisure, tourism, or business, you could also give back by teaching undergraduate or post-graduate students at local universities – many of whom are looking for industry-experienced visiting lecturers. Even if you don’t hold a formal degree, many of them would be thrilled to have you as a guest speaker for an hour or so. It’s a win-win for both sides. The students get to hear about what it’s really like in our industry and you get a feel for what tomorrow’s employees are seeking. Beats talking about millennials in theory at industry conferences.

If you can’t (or don’t want to) leave the office, you can still get involved! Many industry bodies, like the Institute of Hospitality or the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International, have online-based training, coaching, and mentoring opportunities you can get involved with even if you only have an hour or so to spare each week.

Today, mentors may be younger or older than their mentees and, really, age is secondary to skills. What’s important, is the ability to ask the right questions at the right time.

I realised a long time ago that mentors don’t really have to know it all or even always have to know more than their mentees, but that they do need to know how to ask questions and how to go about things in an orderly fashion. Yes, mentors can provide insights and knowledge, but more often than not their job is to provide clarity in muddled times, point out possible options, and help weigh advantages and disadvantages.

Giving back via coaching or mentoring also has other, often overlooked, advantages. Those who know me will agree that I like to talk a lot. Mentoring means that I need to talk less and listen more. It also exposes me to situations and problems that I wouldn’t otherwise have to deal with, which often results in new insights and knowledge. Being a mentor also makes me happy. It’s a nice feeling to be able to ‘give back’, help others, and transfer knowledge.

I’d encourage you to take some time out this festive season to give back to others in our industry. It’s the season of giving, after all!

Whatever you do: keep it festive!

About the Author: Martin Kubler is the founder of Iconsulthotels and the CEO of sps:affinity. Iconsulthotels is now sps:hotels — a leading hotel management consultancy that provides its clients forward-looking business strategies, keeping them ahead of the market. Email:

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