Mentoring and Networking: The Secret Sauce for Your Career Growth

by | CAREER GUIDANCE, Job Hunting, Top 4

How to Develop Professional Relationships in Hospitality Careers

Building a successful career in hospitality or any other industry takes more than competence or technical skills. One factor that is becoming an essential cog in career growth is the ability to build and sustain professional relationships and networks. Identifying helpful mentors and career sponsors can give you a leg up in your hospitality job search or promotion.

Mentoring and networking was the subject of our recent 1-hour online masterclass co-presented by Janet Shaner and Jose Soriano. Janet is a lecturer at EHL Hospitality Business School and author, while Jose is a global hospitality senior executive with over 28 years of experience in luxury hotels, branded residential, and mixed-use real estate development. 

The masterclass will help you understand how mentoring and networking contribute to career growth, how to explore the science behind building strong relationships, and which strategies can help you approach mentoring and networking more intentionally. 

This article summarises key takeaways from the webinar. You can also watch the entire episode (available in English only) by clicking on the link below.


A learning and development model developed by the Centre for Creative Leadership presupposes that 70 percent of professional development comes from taking on challenging assignments, with 20% of learning resulting from developmental relationships. The remaining 10% develops from the coursework and training an employee receives.

Here’s why relationships are important:

Professional relationships connect what you learn in training programs and how you apply the lessons to ace challenging or stretch assignments. According to Jose, relationships make it easy to transition between what you learn in theory and practice. Relationships also involve receiving feedback, which is an important component of professional growth.

Types of Professional Relationships

Professional developmental relationships are categorised into four areas: mentorship, sponsorship, coaching, and training. Here’s what you need to know about each relationship:.

  1. Mentorship: A mentor is someone who provides guidance and support through sharing their experiences with a junior professional, a mentee. Mentors act as mentees’ sounding boards by helping them navigate through career challenges. Mentorship can also go the other way, where mentees provide some insights to their mentors in a process referred to as reverse mentoring.
  2. Sponsorship: A sponsor is a senior leader in an organisation who is actively vested in the success of a junior employee by helping them become more visible in the organisation. For instance, a career sponsor will share opportunities with you and amplify your abilities with the decision-makers, increasing your chances of getting hired or promoted.
  3. Coaching: A coach in a professional setting enables someone to improve performance or correct some behaviour. According to Jose, a coach points you in the right direction by providing valuable feedback such as skills gaps, and other blind spots that may impede team or individual growth.
  4. Trainer/guide: A trainer or guide is someone, such as a colleague, who teaches skills and shares feedback on your developmental needs and competencies.

In a nutshell, knowing how to perform a job can only get you so far. Strong professional relationships allow you to discover areas you need to focus on to evolve and grow as a leader.

How to Form Professional Relationships

Knowing where and how to look for mentors, sponsors, and coaches can help you kickstart the journey towards successful networking. The good news is that your support network is closer than you think.

According to Janet, people tend to form professional relationships with people who share a similar culture or background and those located close to them. You can also develop a network of people with whom you share intense activities, such as sports or training courses. Similarity, proximity, and shared activities provide a solid foundation for building relationships.

Trust, according to Jose, is an important ingredient for successful professional relationships. People naturally want to connect professionally and personally with people they trust. Trust enables people to share experiences and new information, such as what’s happening in an organisation.

Building a network also requires one to be a giver rather than a taker. You need to ask yourself what you are bringing into the relationship. Adam Grant, in his book Give and Take, argues that the most effective networkers are those willing to help others. They get into the relationship without expecting anything, which in the end puts them in positions of influence and successful career paths.

How to Be Intentional in Your Networking

To be a successful networker, you need to be intentional and strategic. Go into the process with a clear goal in mind and take concrete steps to actualise those goals. For instance, if you want to get into the hospitality industry, analyse your network and see if you have the right people to advise and support you. Get referrals and leverage social media to reduce the degree of separation between you and your potential supporters.

Get involved in shared projects and activities that will bring you closer to the people you need in your network. For instance, join a board, participate in volunteer activities, or be part of cross-functional teams. This opens up opportunities to work directly with other people and allows you to identify those who can supercharge your career. You also demonstrate your abilities and raise your brand in the eyes of key decision-makers in the organisation.

Networking Tips for (Aspiring) Hospitality Professionals

Here are some handy tips you can apply to build a great network for your professional growth in the hospitality industry:

  • Find a mentor or sponsor: Identifying a mentor or a sponsor can be daunting, especially for young professionals. Here’s what you need to know: Most people are willing to help, and all you need to do is ask. If you get a positive answer, you can take it from there. If they are not willing, you can find someone else.
  • Leverage referrals: If you can’t seem to find the right people for networking, get referrals from other people. Colleagues, friends, social media, and career advisors can provide helpful referrals to kickstart your networking journey.
  • Demonstrate trust: Trust, according to Jose, is the emotional capital of any relationship. Do your part to show that you are a trustworthy person and win the confidence of your mentors and sponsors. Deliver on your promises, be authentic, and show commitment in your actions.
  • Networking takes time: Building trust and chemistry is not an overnight thing. Don’t be in a rush to make things happen. Have a clear goal, analyse your network, and chart out where you want to be career-wise. All this takes time.
  • Show gratitude: Always express gratitude to people you meet in your networking endeavours. Showing gratitude creates a positive impression of you and improves your brand.
  • Networking for introverts: Introverts may have a harder time initiating and maintaining professional relationships. Janet and Jose advise introverts to be more strategic and harness their key strengths, such as their creativity and active listening skills, to build long-term professional relationships.
  • Be yourself: Building a network can be much easier when you present your authentic self. People would rather engage with a flawed version of you than the best version of someone else.

Networking and building professional relationships is an evolving practice. Staying abreast of best practices can help you stay at the top of your networking game. Read books and listen to seasoned professionals to keep your network well-oiled.




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