TIME to Give Back to my NZ Travel Agent Family

Wayne Mitcham, Country Manager, New Zealand

During my eight years representing Brand USA in New Zealand, I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with many travel agents in New Zealand. I know so many personally now, I’d go as far as to say we’ve become a family. Through countless learning incentives, expos, fams, and co-ordinated training sessions, this family has shown Brand USA and me personally, nothing but endless support and encouragement.

Together, pre-COVID, we were working with two specific goals in mind: to increase visitation to the U.S. and showcase its many diverse states and territories, and to market and promote the USA as a destination that doesn’t just provide the holiday of a lifetime, but a lifetime of holidays for agents’ clients. Then along came the pandemic, and with it, devastating results for the travel agent industry. We have been doing all we can to provide ongoing support through this time, however, it never feels enough.

This was my time to give back.

So, you can imagine how delighted I was to be approached by The Travel Industry Mentor Experience (TIME) in July this year, to become a mentor in its new MentorMe program, designed to support those in the industry that may be going through changes in their career and need constructive mentoring. This was my time to really give back and it felt right. So naturally, I jumped at the chance.

The not-for-profit organisation was looking for senior industry leaders (past and present) to offer constructive dialogue and support during 20-30 minute Zoom calls with individuals who have signed up (at no cost to them). I was told that my name had been passed on by a current mentor for MentorMe – hurrah!

Unlike TIME, which commenced in September 2019 as a longer-term offering that mentees sign up to, MentorMe is a newly launched program is designed for mentees that need specific career advice, guidance on personal development, or just a friendly and understanding ear from someone outside of their usual circle during this challenging time. Sessions may be one-off, or if mutually agreeable, my mentee and I can continue our sessions for as long as we like.

How are mentees matched?

Well, just like with online dating (not that I am very familiar with it; I have to caveat this in case my partner’s reading and starts asking questions…), pairs are matched based on the suitability of their attributes. For instance, someone may be looking to improve their social media presence and personal brand or may need a little help with the right connections and training. As I’ve been in the industry for a while and regularly invest in upskilling myself, I am able to help make those introductions while sharing useful tips and tricks.

I filled my online form in… ‘Enjoys long walks on the beach and prefers cooking over eating out’… Just joking, it was more like ticking yes to areas of expertise. In my case, I chose the following topics: airlines, marketing services, brand/PR/digital/social, event management, career coaching, transferrable skills, resume writing, interview skills, and personal brand development on social platforms. And just like the dating game (I imagine!), I waited. Only I didn’t wait long – within three weeks, I was matched with my mentee – a travel agent looking to grow their business online.

Due to confidentiality, I won’t discuss specific details about my mentee, however, I will say that our 45-minute session went really well. As I mentioned at the start, my travel agent family has given me so much support over the years – it was good to give back and make a crucial difference for a peer. I went into the session thinking that even if my mentee takes away just one thing, it was worth it. As it turns out, I was able to provide a few nuggets of advice plus links to resources they weren’t previously aware of. And that opened their eyes to a world of help which could save them time and stress. All they needed was a helping hand to point them in the right direction.

What an excellent program MentorMe is. I would highly recommend signing up if you are in the travel industry and feeling a bit lost – which hey, who in this current time ISN’T feeling a bit lost?! But particularly in our industry – what a tumultuous journey it has been.

I am so thankful I was approached for MentorMe and look forward to future sessions and mentee matches via MentorMe or the full TIME program which has a new intake in October. I feel even more connected to the travel industry and will continue to give back to my family as much as I can.

Learn more about TIME’s MentorMe or full TIME program.