Updated: Sep 14, 2020
Several years ago, I engaged in a peer mentorship relationship with a friend and professional colleague of mine. We have similar education, and careers, and had been a casual support to each other for some time. It had been nearly 20 years since either of us went through the WSET Diploma program, and we had both decided to undertake the CWE. Each of us also wanted to use the experience as a way of assessing whether or not applying for Master of Wine program was the right choice for us, and if so…were we ready?
I had never had a mentor in my wine career, and never engaged in a structured peer mentoring relationship before. 3 years later, I see just how powerful and transformative this relationship has been, for both of us. The wine industry can be very competitive, and as a woman (people really, but I speak from my own experience) in wine, we are often very isolated, and can be fearful about the limited opportunities, which might be available to us. Furthermore, there can be a feeling of constantly having to prove ourselves, which leads to anxiety as opposed to celebration of our path. We get into the wine industry because we love wine, and it brings us joy, so finding joy in our work should be a primary professional objective, right? It can be easier said than done. But are not all of the people you admire the most in the wine world following their joy, isn’t that what makes them so magnanimous? When I engaged in a peer mentoring relationship, one of the things, which I had decided that I wanted to do, was to live through my passion and joy, and be financially successful doing it. Sharing that quest openly with another person has sometimes been scary, but has been more profoundly positive than I ever imagined possible.
In the wine industry, there isn’t really a clear roadmap to success: some people get certifications and some get where they want to be by earning street cred (these days most of us need to do both). But the power of having a person to share that journey with who does NOT have a personal investment in your success (i.e. a life or business partner) can be very liberating.
What can a mentor provide? Accountability, honest feedback, a fresh perspective, emotional support and so much more.
What have I gotten out of peer mentoring? For me, yes, I passed the CWE with flying colors, but it turns out, while I feel academically ready for the MW program, at this moment in my life it would not be the right choice form me (for many reasons). In my career and my work, I have mostly abandoned fear and anxiety, and most importantly, I realized that I am the author of my own destiny. After the exam, we continued our peer mentoring structure, and turned our attention to each new goal or challenge we set for ourselves. It feels good as independent women in wine, to not be alone, but also to have a relationship, which really exists outside of any financial interdependence.
So many of you, students and friends, are looking for the path forward, and while I do offer mentoring for my students (and you are welcome to reach out and even engage me formally in mentoring), I strongly encourage you all to pair up with somebody you trust and embark on a peer mentorship relationship. Set goals, and meet regularly. You can be the master of your own destiny in your career, and finding partnerships, which exist without stake or pressure, can be a very powerful tool to finding your way. It is a constant process, especially in these overwhelming times, finding a friend could mean you stay the course instead of fall to the side of your dreams. Embarking on a peer mentoring relationship in a times like these (the time of COVID19), could be just what you need to keep moving forward in uncertain times.
We are stronger together!