How to Choose the Right Mentoring Program

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Having a mentor is one of the most effective ways for veterans and service members to build influential networks of contacts, achieve meaningful goals and advance their careers. Each mentee will enter a mentoring relationship with a unique set of needs -- whether it involves guidance on pursuing an MBA degree or strategies for breaking into a new industry after a decade of military service.

For the best chance of addressing these needs and enjoying long-term success, mentees should not only give careful consideration to who mentors them, but how their mentorships are structured. Keep reading to learn about the benefits of various types of mentorships and how they can further your military or civilian career.

One-on-One Mentoring

This classic mentoring structure is also the most popular, and for good reason. Because mentees receive highly personalized guidance from more experienced service members or veterans, one-on-one mentoring can yield dramatic results.

With mentors and mentees working so closely together in a one-on-one mentorship, it's important to establish a strong match in which both parties have similar values. Mentors and mentees should also keep each other accountable by setting actionable long- and short-term goals -- both for professional development and the progress of the mentoring relationship.


Many service members relocate every few years, making it a challenge to have ongoing in-person meetings. E-mentoring gives mentors and mentees a more convenient way to meet and communicate through video chat, email and other online tools.

To make this type of mentorship work, participants should still aim to meet up in-person whenever possible -- even if it's just once every year or two. And because professionals are more likely to cancel or reschedule online meetings, mentors and mentees should always prioritize their mentoring sessions and correspondence.

Reverse Mentoring

Even service members with decades of experience can learn something from their younger counterparts. In reverse mentoring, a more experienced individual offers guidance to an older mentee.

Even though it's largely underutilized, this mentoring structure is especially beneficial when a younger mentor shares her knowledge of newer technology and online media. For reverse mentoring to be successful, less experienced mentors need to be confident in their abilities and expertise while older mentees should remain open-minded and receptive.

Group Mentoring

High-profile professionals and military members often turn down mentorships, because they receive more requests than they can handle. A smart solution to this problem is to form a group mentoring structure, in which one person conducts mentoring sessions with several mentees at once.

Not only does this format allow a mentor to share knowledge more efficiently, but it also gives members of the group the opportunity to draw support from one another.

Peer Mentoring Groups

Mentoring can even be successful without the presence of an official mentor, as is the case with peer mentoring groups. Peer mentoring occurs when several service members or veterans at similar levels work with one another to discuss shared struggles and opportunities for growth and advancement.

Peer mentoring allows participants to be more open and honest, because they're operating in a relaxed setting with no hierarchy. To keep peer mentoring groups functional, participants should discuss their shared goals and encourage everyone to strike a good balance between listening and contributing.

Mentorships have the potential to catapult careers and initiate long-lasting professional relationships, so mentors and mentees alike should tailor solutions that fit their individual preferences and needs.

Whether you've found a perfect mentor who lives in another country or you're most comfortable sharing ideas among your peers, these structures and best practices will give you a great starting point for developing the best possible mentoring relationship for your career.

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