WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — Well, the short answer is, you already have one, or more, whether you know it or not! We all have a boss and that boss should be providing mentorship. But that’s not the primary focus of this message.
Have you ever wondered how to get funded for that training class you’ve been wanting to take, or the best route to that next reassignment or promotion? Maybe you have a difficult situation to deal with. Whether you are happy remaining in your present positon or are looking for that next step in your career, you are probably asking yourself ‘what if’ or ‘who should I talk to’ questions. Well, the best people to provide relevant information and explain options are those of us who have been through the process. Ask us! We won’t make the decisions for you, but we will provide actionable information so you can move forward.
As I write this article, I’m entering my 30th year of service with the world’s greatest Air Force. I’ve seen many changes and worked through many issues in all of the categories listed above. Like my peers, my career has been unique. I’ve routinely sought out mentors who have experience in areas matching my questions. I recommend you do the same by seeking mentors outside your chain of command, and even in different career fields. These individuals can give you objective advice and breadth of knowledge to help you make a decision. Some of the best advice will be very direct and sometimes will contain information you might not want to hear, but you need to hear it. I can still hear one of my mentors giving it to me straight between the eyes, but I grew and now I’m a better person for the experience.
The best time to seek a mentor is before you need one. Certainly, if you have a question now and don’t have a mentor yet, then start the process by asking someone you respect if you can meet with them. Don’t let the question go unanswered. If you don’t have a burning question, now is still a great time to ask someone you respect to review your career goals and provide advice. After that, check in with your mentor periodically so they know how you are doing. That way, when a difficult decision or issue comes up you will have already built a relationship with someone who knows you and your goals.
I have had mentors from day one of my career. Some mentor relationships just develop naturally like my first supervisor that I kept in touch with throughout my career, to senior people I came in contact with along the way. Most mentors are honored to share our experiences with others. We know we wouldn’t be where we are today without others sharing their experiences with us!
Good luck, from a 30-year mentee and mentor.