Michelle Gain had spent six years as a senior event coordinator at Mount Wellington's Waipuna Hotel and Conference Centre, having been with the same company since leaving university mid-way through a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2005.
She was disheartened and looking for some career progession, but didn't know where to turn or why she wasn't moving up in her company.
Last year, she took positive action about her concerns and applied to be a mentee as part of the Convention and Incentives New Zealand (CINZ) Mentorship Programme.
Today, she's celebrating a promotion as she was elevated to convention sales manager, with more responsibility.
"I was a little bit lost and doing the same thing day in, day out," says Gain. "I needed something to really focus on and to clarify my ideas about my career."
Enter Heather Cornish, CINZ's events and marketing director to the rescue as the mentor the programme matched her to.
Initially, Gain was hesitant about the match, worried that Cornish was from a sales and marketing background, rather than her own food and beverage background.
"The more we caught up, the more my fears disappeared, and I really saw the benefit of having someone mentoring me from a different background," says Gain. "It gave me a much broader perspective."
One of the things Cornish worked hard with Gain on was her interpersonal relationships within the hotel, which employs some "strong, opinionated people, who can be quite hard to deal with".
"Heather helped show me how to better communicate with them and gave me the language to use and tips when I didn't know how to deal with situations," says Gain. "My changed behaviour showed people in the organisation that I could step up and take that promotion."
The pair were in contact once a month for a face-to-face meeting that took between 1-3 hours, depending on what they were discussing. Outside of that communication, the pair were in email contact once a week, and on more occasions if anything came up that needed a quick phone-call or email session.
Gain says the most surprising thing about the experience was how comfortable she was opening up to Cornish about the problems she faced at work.
"I very quickly opened up about trouble I was having with members of my team, as well as with other departments," says Gain. "The programme talks about trust and because Heather couldn't connect what I was saying to specific people, I could get feedback purely on the facts of the situation, without any bias or emotion from knowing the people involved."
She says as well as being supportive, Cornish also challenged Gain to look at what she was doing to create difficult situations, as well as what the other person was doing, acting as a kind of mirror.
"Heather gave me some great skills with language around hard conversations and showed me that people can feel you're picking on them when you have a bad reaction, so to see things from a business point-of-view where no one can take things personally," says Gain.
Once Gain had taken Cornish's advice, there would be a debrief on how it went and that's where she says the positive affirmations came in about the way she had handled situations, giving her a boost of confidence.
To describe the programme, Gain says it's a guided and structured mentorship, as well as having a pre-mentorship workshop component about expectations and how to get the most out of the experience.
"You've got to be willing to put in the time to get out of it the results," says Gain. "If I'd known how beneficial it would be for me, I would have done it years ago."
The end of the mentorship doesn't spell the end of the relationship between Gain and Cornish. Although the structured meetings will no longer be scheduled, it's the start of a long-term relationship between the two.
The programme has also provided benefits in Gain's personal life and she says it's given her a lot more confidence overall, especially in personal relationships where difficult conversations might arise.
"I know I was given my promotion because of the positive changes I experienced from the mentorship programme, but I also have a clearer idea of where I'm now heading in my career," says Gain. "That's opened me up to going after goals in my personal life, because I feel more secure work-wise.
The 2019 CINZ Mentorship programme will run from 26 June until 18 December, with fortnightly contact. A mentoring pairs review session will be held in September, and the CINZ Conference in October will give mentors and mentees the chance for another face-to-face meeting.
The New Zealand Coaching and Mentoring Centre (NZCMC) is supporting the programme with training and consultancy services.
"I have taken so much from the programme in general. Heather's wealth of knowledge and the generosity with which she was willing to share has been invaluable," says Gain. "I would definitely recommend it to anyone."
CINZ MEETINGS 2019 event at the ASB Showgrounds begins Wednesday 29th. As part of the event, the CINZ Mentorship Programme 2019 will be launched by CINZ chief executive Sue Sullivan.