I’m a big believer in mentorship. Over a dozen years ago, before entering my current profession, I had the great fortune of being mentored by a wise, kindly man who owned a market research company in Boston. I didn’t know much about the business but I had a math background and had just graduated from business school. He was willing to give me a chance. I learned a great deal fast having him as my teacher. He even retained my services through the recession that occurred during that time.
I’ll be forever grateful to him for showing confidence in me and helping me learn skills that I’d put to use later as a journalist: gathering and analyzing data and reporting on my findings.
My career in travel journalism started incredibly serendipitously. I had been working as a marketing research analyst for almost seven years, rising up the ladder by surfing from job to job. I was never satisfied with any position I had. Towards the end of that period, I was the director of marketing research for a boutique advertising agency in Boston. Even this job with its great salary and bonus just didn’t feel right. I realized then that it wasn’t the job but the profession that just didn’t suit me and I had to make a change.
Panicked, I did a fair amount of self-analysis, which resulted in my “What Color is Your Parachute” moment answering the questions, What do I love to do and how can I get someone to pay me to do it? Well, I’d always loved travel and telling people about my trips. Eureka! I should become a travel writer. But I persevered in that research job since I had bills to pay.
And just like that I met a man at a fundraiser in Provincetown who turned out to be the editor of an influential gay travel publication. Fortified with a glass of wine, I screwed up the courage to tell him that he should hire me because I spoke French and Italian and loved to travel. He offered to let me write about my city, Boston, on a regular basis as a correspondent. A few article submissions later, he asked me to go to Key West and evaluate the gay guesthouses there. My next assignment was a trip to the south of France to write a travel guide. Each time I took vacations from the company I worked for.
Finally just as my employers were about to fire me (my lack of passion and long absences beginning to give me away), my editor offered me a full-time job. I’d have to move to Los Angeles and take a 30% cut in pay from my current salary but I jumped at the chance. Goodbye unfulfilling career; hello dream job.
However besides the several articles I produced for my editor, I didn’t know much about travel, gay travel or travel journalism. Luckily for me my editor turned out to be an incredibly effective mentor as did his business partner, the publisher and co-founder of the magazine. So I learned from the best and here I am 13 years later at the top of this particular game. Having benefited immensely from mentoring, I in turn have always strived to mentor younger travel-writing aspirants who’ve sought advice or assignments from me. I was able to hire some of them as interns, freelance writers, and even staff.
Photo Credit:My Alternative Photos