June 16, 2021
These days, there seem to be fewer standardized jobs than ever before. At the same time, “soft skills” –such as leadership, initiative, flexibility and the ability to communicate well – have become increasingly important in the workplace. With today’s varied positions and the many different paths that lead to them, it’s no wonder that navigating the work world and its related requirements can often be confusing and challenging.
In the business aviation community, the good news is that career help and advice are available to employees of all ages, backgrounds and experience. Of course, students seeking career guidance can greatly benefit from a having a mentor. But so can established professionals. From formal mentoring programs such as NBAA’s Mentoring Network, to informal mentoring relationships that spring up in offices and other workplaces, finding a mentor with experience and knowledge can have a significant positive impact on someone’s career.
Everyone Needs Feedback
“I wouldn’t be where I am without mentors,” declared Sean Lee, global vice president, general services at the Coca-Cola Company. “Every step of my career I have looked for leaders that personified that kind of leader I wanted to be, to understand how they were successful. I’m still a mentee sometimes and seek out advice.”
As the executive accountable for the company’s aviation department, among other significant responsibilities, Lee nevertheless still makes time to mentor – at the moment, three internal Coke employees and one through the NBAA program.
“We all need sounding blocks,” said Lee. “And if business aviation is going to have a future, we need new professionals coming on board.” For example, Lee’s mentee through the NBAA program is a private pilot and works on the administrative side but is interested in growing her leadership skills. “I love talking about leadership,” he says.
Even though Lee prefers to meet with his mentees face-to-face, he still scheduled regular virtual meetings with them throughout the pandemic.
“It made me change my style a bit and forced me to grow as a coach,” he said. “I feel like I learned a lot and now have more tools in my toolkit.”
Lee gives his mentees ‘homework’ to help focus their conversations and outcomes and finds that meeting with them is beneficial for him as well. “It refreshes my spirit,” he notes.
Wanting to See People Succeed
Ryan Valone is a client aviation manager and Falcon 2000 captain for Solairus who has mentored four individuals either in business aviation or interested in joining the industry.
“I want to see people succeed in this industry,” he said. “Business aviation has been good to me, and I want to give back.”
One mentee outside of the industry has been considering a career switch from banking into aviation and had an interest in air traffic control. Valone connected her with someone in ATC and also encouraged her to take an online aviation course to see whether she liked it or not.
Valone notes that mentoring has helped him refresh some things that he was rusty on and has helped him keep up with his ‘soft skills,’ such as emotional intelligence (the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships empathetically).
“My circle at work is small, so mentoring helps me break out of my bubble and work with others,” added Valone. He has helped his mentees with everything from securing financing for scholarships to writing letters of recommendation and editing resumes.
Valone has benefited in other ways from his mentees. In a role reversal, one of his mentees who is currently in marketing helped him with a webinar he was working on. “She reviewed my presentation and made some great suggestions,” said Valone.
Learning From Younger People
Lyndse Costabile, president of FunD Av Consulting, takes a slightly different tack with her five mentees, a diverse group involved in different aspects of aviation.
“I bring them together in a zoom call,” she said. “We build camaraderie and their network. We discuss job opportunities, celebrate one another’s accomplishments, share details on events they should attend, secure them passes and provide them the extra push they might need. They support each other in their career progression, too.”
Costabile said she wants to keep her mentees motivated, engaged and enlightened and makes a great effort to introduce them to others in the industry who might help them further.
Mentoring, and generosity in general, doesn’t take much time, according to Costabile, who works with a number of aviation nonprofits. “It’s important to give back,” she said.
Furthermore, Costabile has benefited herself from working with young people, who have taught her more about human behavior.
“I’ve learned a lot about the influencers that are distracting young people these days, and it’s helped me approach things differently. It’s been useful in handling issues for some of my clients and other initiatives.”
Like many others in business aviation, Matthew Olafsen credits the industry with giving him a “great life. There were a lot of people who helped me along the way, and I always said to myself that I was going to pay it forward.”
Olafsen is a Global Express captain for Johnsonville Sausage out of Orlando Executive Airport (ORL). In addition to mentoring, he is a volunteer vice president of the Central Florida Business Aviation Association (CFBAA). He is mentoring two young people, one who is the chair of CFBAA’s new YoPro Committee. Olafsen usually connects at least once a week with his mentees in the NBAA program, and informally with a third mentee who will soon be pursuing a business aviation job once his U.S. Navy service is completed.
In addition to the gratification that he experiences in helping others grow in their business aviation careers, Olafsen has discovered something about himself: “I’ve learned that I know a lot more than I thought I did!”
NBAA Mentoring Network
From just approximately a dozen mentors early in the program a few years ago, NBAA’s Mentoring Network has grown into a robust and successful program with more than 460 participants, including more than 120 active relationships. In fact, NBAA Mentoring Network mentors often indicate that they really don’t ever lose touch with their mentee and are always available to them for guidance and advice moving forward.
Hunter Watson, operations specialist at NBAA, is excited for the next NBAA mentoring cycle to begin in August, when registration opens for mentors and mentees to start the self-matching process. The actual program officially kicks off every September and technically runs nine months through the following May.
“One of the successes of our mentoring network is that we don’t allow ‘automated algorithms’ to determine a matching pair,” said Watson. “Rather, the individual mentee has the ability to choose who they would like to be paired with. This allows a natural conversation between the mentor and mentee and usually means they can relate to each other. In addition, the mentorship is led by the mentee, who has the autonomy to direct the relationship and set some of the objectives they would like to achieve.”