Last fall, I touched on veteran mentorship as a way to leverage your skills off the battlefield and build an enriching and impactful career. Let’s take a closer look at why it’s so important and what you can do.
How do I find a mentor?
Try to find one mentor who has already transitioned from solider life to corporate life. Ask him or her about differences and similarities between the two. Then find a non-veteran mentor who has expertise in the field you’re targeting. See what steps he or she took to get there, and learn about potential areas of growth you’ll need to address to make yourself a competitive candidate.
Finding a mentor isn’t difficult, but it is important to find the right person for you. Try a mentoring program, such as eMentor through AcademyWomen, which lets you browse mentor profiles to find the right match. You can also find mentors outside an official program. Maybe you know someone in your chosen field whom you admire, or you’ve built a strong connection with a fellow veteran.
Now is your time to reach out. I know this can sometimes seem intimidating, but just remember that these people probably had mentors, too – they’ve been there.
You could start with a simple email. Here is an example:
Dear Potential Mentor:
My name is ________ and I am a _____________________________ (Solider, Sailor, Airman, Marine or Coast Guardsman) looking to transition into your field. I heard you speak at the XYZ conference (or I follow you on Twitter, LinkedIn, I read your blog, etc.) and would like to learn more about how you got to where you are today. Would you be open and available for a possible mentorship? I understand you are very busy, so even a quick career chat over the phone or coffee would be greatly appreciated.
It’s as simple as that. The important thing is to ASK.
What Will My Mentorship Look Like?
Mentorships can follow different paths depending on what you need and what your mentor can provide. With your mentor, determine how you want to communicate (Email? Phone? Face to face? All of the above?) and how often you’d like to communicate (Once a week? Once a month? As needed?). Typically, a mentor relationship lasts about six months, but you can shorten or extend the relationship as you both see fit. And if for some reason the mentor isn’t quite the fit you were looking for, that’s OK – you can politely end the relationship at any time.
Flash mentoring is a one-time mentoring session to get feedback, advice, or an energy boost from an experienced professional with very little time commitment. Maybe you’ve been a military healthcare professional and you want to know what it’s like working in pediatrics. A flash mentor session can give you a quick glimpse into that world so you can see if it’s something you’d like to pursue.
You can even find mentorships that focus on image and presentation. Do you know someone who has great presence and always puts people at ease? Seek out someone to help you transition through cultural and social differences.
How Do I Know If My Mentorship Is Successful?
A successful mentorship is a helping hand while you transform your identity and career. May sound a little extreme, but it’s true. As a veteran, you were identified by your rank, or by your service. This is the time to break those boundaries. A mentor can help you visualize that goal and go for it.
And when you’ve gotten to where you want to be, don’t forget to reach back and pull someone else up. Being a mentor gives you fresh perspective and an opportunity to give back in a meaningful and impactful way.