For those of us who are old enough to recall our parents' stories of how their first job was working as an apprentice so they could learn a skill, I would hope we remember the importance of mentorship.
For someone to take time out of their busy day to spend with you is special, and in most cases they aren't related to you and they could be spending time on their own work load. Mentoring has never been about work skills alone but about life lessons: respect, patience, work ethic, dealing with different personalities, how to treat people, creating networks and recognizing that without people success is impossible.
After college my first professional home was at Romano/Gatland where I had the honor of being mentored by Stanley Gatland and Russ Pizzuto, and being surrounded by an amazing group of folks that made learning a blast. Romano/Gatland gave us all the opportunity to interact with the clients one-on-one and run our projects from initial design to completion. The lessons I learned from Romano/Gatland led me to all the great people I've met over the past 30 years in our industry.
The success of the foodservice industry depends on all of us: we all bring something to the table that keeps it moving forward. Mentoring is an important role that doesn't receive the attention it should. The speed at which some people expect things to happen has gotten out of control as it has become easier to steal personnel than to train and mentor someone. The dedication of long-time employees has become a thing of the past in the United States.
I believe mentoring is the best way to create strong teams for our future. By not making the time to train students we hurt our industry as a whole. Had Stanley Gatland not taken the time to teach and train me, my career in this industry would have never happened. My primary reason for joining the BCA was to utilize the networks and friendships I have the honor to be part of to help the next generation follow their dreams.
Though everyone and everything related to the BCA is involved with partnerships and programs rooted in promoting diversity, mentoring and creating a vehicle to connect students with professionals throughout our industry is equally as important. I can't stress enough that mentorship is not based on like professions or color. Life lessons, professionalism and business knowledge have nothing to do with color. By supporting and staying involved with emerging foodservice professionals you can give them the experience they need and a direct link to our industry to keep them moving in the right direction. The specialized professionals and networks across our industry can help develop the skills these students need to be successful. Yet we haven't truly utilized the potential of our own professional diversity to work together.
It's great to see the number of firms, companies, manufacturers, corporations and organizations with mentoring programs increasing, but we need more and we need to do a better job of interacting. No matter how successful we are, the true value of our work will always be based on the investment we make in young people who aspire to become professionals. By creating a stronger bond with our future professionals, the foodservice and hospitality industry will continue to grow far into the future.