During COVID, I was furloughed and had a lot of time (that I typically don't have) to get involved as a volunteer with the GLEAM Network. One of the projects we were working on was launching a pilot Student Mentor Program with the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management…UCF is one of my alma maters. As a volunteer, I helped get the program set up but had no intention of being a mentor. Over my career, I've mentored those with less experience than I have, but I had never mentored anyone with minimal experience that was still in college.
As a volunteer, I had the opportunity to see all the student's applications and learn about the "ONE BIG THING" they wanted to work on. One student who stood out to me the most, Andrew Miele. He shared that he was recently put on furlough and wanted to learn how to build his personal brand on LinkedIn and how to network better. Well, I thought, I've always been good at LinkedIn, but due to my recent furlough….I had learned even more about the system and how to elevate my personal brand better, so I could really make a difference for him. So, I raised my hand to be his mentor and I'm so glad I did!
Andrew and I only worked together for 8 short weeks, but we talked weekly — sometimes two or three times — to ensure he was making the progress he needed. First, we established WHAT he wanted to do for work…Restaurant Management and hopefully long-term… a Restaurant Owner. Then we worked on his LinkedIn profile — adding "Open to Work", changing his profile picture, adding a bio/summary, strengthened the verbiage around his accomplishments, requested skills, endorsements, and recommendations that proved he had the skillset to do the job. Once that was in a good spot, we talked about how to search for people on LinkedIn and how to connect with the ones he wanted to conduct informational interviews with.
To give Andrew the best advice, I conducted my own research on LinkedIn and studied what made the "best" profiles. I decided to practice what I preached with Andrew and make a few updates myself. I had already updated my profile Summary and Experience as well as my resume, but I decided to optimize my "Endorsements" to ensure the LinkedIn analytics was giving me the job postings that truly met my skills. I decided which ones were my top 10 and reached out to several of my contacts to request endorsements for those specifically. I also requested recommendations from my contacts. This helped me network with colleagues I hadn't talked to in a while. I think us working on our LinkedIn profiles together made Andrew and my mentor relationship even stronger because he knew I was going through the same things he was. We encouraged each other along the way and built a friendship.
One day, Andrew called me to tell me that a gentleman he had reached out to who works at Raising Canes (his ideal company) responded to one of his LinkedIn messages. They set up an informational interview and he learned that although there were no opportunities in FL, the gentlemen would get Andrew's contact information to HR for other opportunities in the mid-west, where the company was growing. After only 3 weeks, Andrew had a HUGE SUCCESS!
On the last day of the program when Andrew had to present what he learned to his Professors at UCF, we were pleased to share that before the end of the 8-week program, Andrew had accepted a position to be an Assistant Manager at Raising Canes!! Only a few short weeks after our mentorship program commenced, I also found a new job, Vice President of Training at Global Franchise Group. He was just as encouraging to me in my journey as I was to him. Win-Win! Seven months later, we still chat and we are both so happy in our new roles.
My advice to Mentees is to "Be All In". Be open and willing to learn and look at things from a different lens…the lens of someone with more and different experience and perspective from you. Andrew was an AMAZING mentee! He was so open to trying new things and always put in the work to do everything above and beyond what I asked him to do. I gave him articles to read, examples of great profiles, had him complete personality assessments, and challenged him. He gave it 110% and it paid off! The success of the program will always be based on the drive and desire of the Mentee.
My advice to Mentors is "Giving is Receiving." I promise you will get as much out of your relationship with your mentee as they do with you. You may or may not learn something new from your mentee BUT you will get the joy of seeing someone grow and succeed because of you…that is the best gift of being a mentor!
I encourage EVERYONE to join the GLEAM Mentor Program. It is best if there is something specific you are working on. No, not every program ends with a new job or huge success BUT I don't know a single person who's said "I didn't learn anything from that experience." So go…make it happen! I want to hear YOUR success stories!!
This article is written by Sunny Ashman, Vice President, Training at Global Franchise Group — the parent company of Great American Cookies, Marble Slab Creamery, Pretzelmaker, Round Table Pizza, and Hot Dog on a Stick. Sunny has 15+ years of experience in the Restaurant Industry serving in various roles — Training, Operations, Marketing/Strategy, Franchise Sales, and Project Management.
Special recognition goes out to Sunny's mentee, Andrew Miele, for being an influential part of Sunny's recent career path.