Much has been said about the importance of outreach programs to encourage young professionals to enter the industry.
All of this is very good, and I suspect very few people would object to such programs. I regularly meet people who express a desire to give back to their communities and join established outreach programs. While searching for the right talent, there is another direct avenue aviation professionals and pilots can take to shape the careers of others and that is through mentoring. More precisely, through mentoring and sponsoring.
In this direct, one-to-one relationship, you can actively have a measurable impact on a person and likely more depth in the long run.
I have benefited from having different people throughout my career who have played an active role in helping me develop the right qualities for work and life.
You may be wondering what is the difference between a mentor and a sponsor? take it out of the Harvard Business Review That sets them apart by saying, “The key difference between the two is that mentoring is mostly about someone giving you advice and feedback, while sponsorship is about someone standing up for you directly because they think about your skills and potential.” believes.”
It’s possible to be both, but a sponsor is someone who puts their reputation on the line for you, and ultimately that’s what most people want and should offer. Many commercial pilots, especially in the corporate setting, will casually tell you that they only got into their current job because someone stood up for them. So that already corresponds to one of the dynamics of the aviation industry and professional development, which makes it just as crucial as the technical qualification.
So if sponsorship is the evolution of mentoring, what should you look for in a mentor?
Many online sources suggest up to seven types of mentors. Hearing that can be overwhelming, especially when you’re struggling to find one. However, as I read through various descriptions, I realized that I had met their characters at different stages of my career. So it’s good to at least be aware of the people who may be accompanying you.
Borrow from a helpful one Ted.com article That puts it well, here are four types of mentors to look out for:
Mentor #1: The master craftsman
Who is the best pilot you know? You’ve probably met her in the halls of a flight school or trade conference and been inspired by her demeanor and mastery of her craft. It probably encouraged you to dig a little deeper within yourself to tighten up some loose ends. I definitely encourage you to maintain a relationship with this person, even if it is distant or aspiring at first, so that you can get as much out of their methods as possible. When I was in the middle of flight training, I remember that older students, who got the most recognition, were at a different level. As much as possible I tried to use the practical tips they offered to add to my skills. I learned some of the best study habits I have now from them.
Mentor #2: The co-pilot
When I wrote about finding a flight partner, I included the mentor who is in many ways like your co-pilot at work. As I explained earlier, both in training and professionally, it is invaluable to have someone of the same level with similar goals who can spur you on. In this case, it’s a two-way relationship and you’re encouraged to bring as much to the table as you get. When you are out of school, I encourage you to join regional aviation groups in your area so you can meet like-minded people.
Mentor #3: The Anchor
An anchor is a mentor who is not necessarily within the industry but someone who has your general interest at heart. It’s easy to get tunnel vision about your career goals and miss the big picture about living a fulfilling life. An anchor can help you keep priorities straight or see things from a different angle.
Pilots might find this more valuable given the volatility of the airline industry and the disruptions that occur on a regular basis. It’s beneficial to have someone who can help you consider all of your options outside of flying or near the sector. Where do you find these people? You need to use the same networking tactics but outside of the industry. You could start with non-aviator family members and friends, but you may meet other helpful people if you keep an open mind.
Mentor #4: The Reverse Mentor
After all, mentoring is not a one-way street. You may be surprised to find that people you think are ahead of you might want to learn from you.
It’s kind of a circle of life because younger people traditionally benefit from adopting and figuring out the latest trends and technology earlier. People who are a lot further along want to tap into these things to keep up to date. At the same time, you want to see things from their perspective. This creates a scenario where both can share ideas and experiences for mutual benefit. Here I encourage young professionals to master a craft that will be valuable to others, as your skills are likely to attract the mentors you desire.
So where should you find a mentor?
They are all around you depending on the stages of your career. When you are in flight school, actively socialize with friends, both in front of you and behind you. The aviation industry is teeming with events, from trade shows to air shows, teeming with volunteers. In particular, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) has encouraged the development regional groups to be present in the community and to serve as a meeting place for mentors and mentees.
There are even flying clubs and contact groups that offer the same thing. At the airline level, the Airline Pilot Association (ALPA) has formalized its ALPA-ACE program which places some of its member pilots in universities and colleges across the country. An independent group that has done well is professional pilots of tomorrow, which will help you find out about the right flight job. I benefited from this as a student pilot. Finally, the FAA has its way for that “Mentor Pilot” in general aviation to encourage newly certified pilots to safely gain experience by having someone with more experience on board.
I hope you will realize the importance of building mentoring relationships, whichever side you fall on.
Additionally, sponsoring a young professional with tangible opportunities within your reach could be your opportunity to directly improve the industry.