When you transition out of the military, you will learn there are many areas you haven’t been trained or prepared for. Throughout your career, there may be many times to enlist the help and support of a mentor, who can help you navigate the complexity of a transition and help with a successful job search, but there are other times when a mentor can also be valuable.
What is a mentor?
A mentor is someone more experienced and whose counsel and perspective you (the mentee) deem valuable and helpful to growing your career. A mentor offers you counsel and guidance at no cost to you. Some mentors work through a formal mentor/mentee relationship, where protocols, goals, and expectations are outlined and directed through an organization or company. Other mentors will help you in a less formal or ad hoc manner.
Mentors come from all walks of life, and are motivated to advise mentees for many reasons, including a desire to serve and “pay it forward” because of their own good fortune.
When do you need a mentor?
Three times in your life and career when a mentor can add significant value and impact:
1. Entrepreneurship Whether you desire to be a consultant, business owner, inventor, or pursue another entrepreneurial route, a mentor can be hugely valuable. A mentor who is a successful entrepreneur or investor can help you:
- Set up your business, helping you decide how to structure the business (an LLC, non-profit, or other legal structure), whether to hire employees or independent contractors, and how you might pursue tax structures to best protect your business growth.
- Develop a business plan and strategy or marketing programs, outlining business goals, and measuring results to foresee problems and exploit opportunities.
- Connect to key contacts. Your mentor may introduce you to an accountant, lawyer, marketing professional, or other key partners and vendors to help launch your business.
- Learn how to hire, on board, and retain staff. From volunteers, to employees, to interns, your mentor can help you make responsible decisions around hiring and developing your team.
- Troubleshoot challenges and stay focused. An experienced business professional serving as your mentor can offer you input and advice, lifting your spirits and perspective when the going gets tough.
2. Career Transition Transitioning from a military to civilian career, or from one job to another, is challenging emotionally, financially, and professionally. A mentor can provide valuable support by:
- Providing encouragement when the stress feels overwhelming.
- Offer feedback on what worked or didn’t work in your last career or job. Your mentor can bring a new point of view to the challenges you face, helping you identify opportunities.
- Delivering introductions to employers who might be interested in hiring you.
- Writing a recommendation online, providing enhanced credibility to your background and experience.
3. Career Growth Even if you have a civilian job you love and where you believe you are thriving, a mentor can help you stay focused, consistent, and motivated to continue building your skills and talents. To grow your career, a mentor can:
- Become your cheerleader -- encouraging you to work through challenging times, and help you celebrate your career milestones and successes.
- Provide a sounding board as you navigate new opportunities and challenges.
- Show you the career path in front of you, even when you can’t see it clearly.
- Introduce you to other mentors who can provide focused and specific guidance on issues or areas you need training in.
A mentoring relationship requires mutual benefit. The mentor must feel they are providing input and advice that is valuable and acted upon. The mentee should believe they are benefitting from the counsel. Over time, the mentee will likely desire to mentor someone else, and the cycle of giving continues!