July 7, 2020

Working from home and social distancing have imposed unique challenges on interpersonal relationships, but the global spread of COVID-19 has only heightened the importance of a strong, diverse mentoring network.

“Mentoring means different things to different people,” explained aviation technology consultant Tristan Punnett during the July 7 NBAA News Hour webinar. “I looked at my mentorship as a way for me to soundboard ideas, but as the relationship developed it became less situational, less about what would you do now, and evolved more into conversations around what would you do around specific topics.”

For Douglas Young, who handles aircraft sales and acquisition at Pinnacle Aviation and is president of the Arizona Business Aviation Association, mentoring is crucial in an industry as technical as business aviation.

“In business aviation, we specialize in so many different areas, and making connections throughout the industry gives us a better understanding of each other,” noted Young. “It’s also important to have various mentors around you as you go through your careers to help guide you along the way.”

Mentorships also are about the transfer of knowledge between a mentor and mentee, said Tracie Carwile, board director for Women in Corporate Aviation. “When you are in a position where you can share and mentor and guide people, that doesn’t mean you can’t also learn,” she said. This approach is even more important during the pandemic when work-from-home orders can create a distance between colleagues at a time when inclusion and job security are paramount.

The diversity of a mentoring network is certainly more important during this pandemic, stressed Hunter Watson, NBAA operations specialist. “There should be no limits on who can be a mentor or a mentee. There is no need to put restrictions in place, this is a time when we should really lean on each other,” Watson added.

That diversity also extends to the role of mentor. “Everyone can be a mentor,” said Young. “It’s a common misconception that it’s younger people who are mentored. Today, people are also looking to the younger generation for their insight.”
Social media, particularly professional platforms like LinkedIn, are an important tool for anyone seeking to build a mentoring network, although the NBAA News Hour panelists recommended a cautious approach, especially during the pandemic.

“Understand that the people you’re looking to get advice from probably don’t have a lot of time, so the easier you make it for them to quickly identify who you are and what you want to accomplish in a clear, concise way is going to affect your success tremendously,” advised Punnett.

“Be professional and be on the platform that will give you the best image,” said Young. “Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a response. You have to be persistent.”

Engagement is key to success on social media, noted Carwile. “Before you direct-message somebody
who doesn’t know you, you need to engage with them, you need to follow them, you need to comment on their posts and watch the same webinars they watch. Every single company and person is trying to personalize their independent brand right now, so interaction and communication, I think, are going to get you much further than sending someone something in their DM,” she noted.

The pandemic has emphasized the importance of mentoring networks, but, warned Punnett, any effort made now should not be squandered.

“Once we get past COVID, which we will, don’t let your need for a mentor go away,” he said. “Maintain those relationships because a mature mentoring network is incredibly valuable.”