Why Mentoring Should Be Part of Your New Year's Resolutions

(U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Monty Burton)

I get it. You're busy trying to exit the military and secure your next career, and mentoring feels like a treat, not a necessity. It's like eating dessert before dinner -- it makes no sense.

As you list your New Year's resolutions, consider adding mentoring to your goals. Here are some of the most common challenges and opportunities I hear about mentoring:

My company gives me a "battle buddy" at work. Isn't that enough?

While your company-appointed guide certainly will assist you through the written and unwritten rules of engagement at your work, and they may be a mentor to you, having an external mentor can serve you in additional ways.

Your internal company mentor will help you understand different systems, personalities and cultural traits of your employer. This is invaluable! Having an external mentor as well could offer you a broader worldview on how companies like yours operate, what it takes to succeed in the industry and what you'll need to avoid as you grow your civilian career.

I don't have time to mentor someone.

Mentoring is certainly a commitment but one that's manageable. At the outset, develop clear expectations and rules for how the relationship will work. As the mentor, are you comfortable being contacted outside of business hours? Can your mentee ask you personal questions or only career/business-related ones? How frequently will you both meet?

Setting expectations and then agreeing to them helps you manage your time and deliver the most value to your mentee. I do a lot of mentoring and use Veterati.com (a free online platform that connects active-duty service members, veterans and military spouses to mentors who volunteer their time) to help me manage my own calendar. When I have lots of available time, I add more mentoring slots. When my workload prevents that, I add fewer.

Where can I find help navigating my new company?

A mentor inside the company can be a great resource to help you onboard and "learn the ropes" of your new job and employer. Ask your manager or human resources department about any formal mentoring programs your company offers or whether they know someone who may be willing to guide you in an informal way.

Transition is hard! Who can show me the way?

Transition is not a single day; it's a process. For some, it can take months or even years to feel fully transitioned out of the military. As such, finding someone who has made the transition successfully can be a huge advantage.

Consider a mentor who's come from a similar experience set and military career to guide you. Or look for someone who's transitioned into your same field of work.

I don't see the value in having someone mentor me.

Do you like "free?" Mentoring is like free coaching. Your mentor will advise you, provide insight and information that you might not easily access and can offer their perspective on your situation.

Civilians and veterans all need mentors who are further down the path than they are and can provide insight on opportunities and challenges that might await them. A mentor is an invaluable resource to grow your career in meaningful ways!

I miss the camaraderie of the military. Am I the only one?

A mentor who is prior military will be able to relate to this feeling and provide examples of how they managed those same emotions. Your mentor may be able to point you to specific groups or forums where you can find that camaraderie, offer suggestions for connecting with people at work better and suggest ways you could make yourself more approachable to others so they'll want to know you more.

I'm not separating from the military for 18 months. I'll find a mentor then.

It's never too early to seek guidance and advice. Instead of waiting until you need one and then struggling to find the right mentor, consider looking for a mentor now. Find someone who has experience with the stage in your transition you're in right now. You might need another mentor as your separation date nears, but having one in place will empower you to be clearer about how a second mentor can serve you.

Mentoring is not a burden. It's not a sign of weakness. It's a powerful tool to use as you grow your career from where you are today to where you hope to be. Use other's experience and guidance to help you.

Mentoring is one of the most meaningful parts of my work. I'm honored to have mentored hundreds of transitioning veterans and (hopefully) provided meaningful guidance for their next phase of career.

The author of "Success After Service: How to Take Control of Your Job Search and Career After Military Duty" (2020) and "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition" (2014), Lida Citroën is a keynote speaker and presenter, executive coach, popular TEDx speaker and instructor of multiple courses on LinkedIn Learning. She regularly presents workshops on personal branding, executive presence, leadership communication and reputation risk management.

A contributing writer for Military.com, Lida is a passionate supporter of the military, volunteering her time to help veterans transition to civilian careers and assist employers who seek to hire military talent. She regularly speaks at conferences, corporate meetings and events focused on military transition.

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