One of the main reasons we started In Gear Career was to connect military spouses with other professionals in their fields- to create mentorship and sponsorship relationships to enable you to succeed in pursuing a professional career.
As a career minded military spouse, it is imperative that you have a mentor. Why? As you move from duty station to duty station, you will come across unique career challenges. A mentor is someone who believes in you and wants you to succeed. They are typically more senior, have experience in your career field, and are willing to help you. He or she is a trusted ally that can provide critical feedback, encouragement, and wisdom in your decision making process. Having a mentor can elevate your professional capabilities exponentially.
Who should be my mentor?
Your mentor doesn’t have to be a military spouse, although it would be helpful to have someone fielding your career development questions who understands the military community and the challenges you face. Ideally, your mentor is someone with significant experience in your chosen career field. You should admire him or her and have a natural connection when speaking with that person.
How do I find a mentor?
If you are working, your company leadership may be a great place to start. Barring that, networking with other professionals is a way to connect with possible mentors. One way to do this is through forums, like InGear, or your professional associations. If you are not working, you need to join your professional association to begin meeting others in your field – doing so, will also improve your chances of getting a job, because a mentor can also become a sponsor.
The Art of the Ask
The key to forging a mentor relationship is to be open to opportunities. When you feel a natural connection with someone, just ask for help. Tell them how much you admire what they have accomplished, their work style, or (fill in the blank) and would love to meet for coffee and learn more about their career path. For the most part people enjoy sharing their experiences and helping others. You have nothing to lose by asking. If they say no it’s likely because they are simply too busy and they may be able to suggest someone else.
What should the relationship look like?
Once a connection is established, ask if they would be willing to get together on a regular basis. From there, you need to ensure the relationship is mutually rewarding. Some things to keep in mind:
· Respect their time: Suggest meeting once a month, but always ask how often they can get together. Adjust your schedule to accommodate them. Everyone’s time is valuable, but you need to show that you value theirs by limiting engagements to appropriate lengths.
· Consider reciprocity: Don’t just “pick” their brain. Think about what you can offer them that will add to their brain-power! Some mentors get a reward from a creative exchange and will appreciate reverse mentorship. Do some research ahead of time to add to the conversation rather than just asking away. What can you teach them about social media, the latest in pop culture or how to motivate 20-somethings in the workplace? Recommend articles that may be of interest to them that they may not be in their line of sight.