August 24, 2012
While in ROTC as a cadet, I recall hearing about mentors. I didn’t know better, so when I initially came on active duty, I waited patiently for someone to mentor me. I figured since everything else was nicely organized in a formal program, if I looked long enough, I’d eventually find out where I could sign up and get a mentor. With hindsight I can see I got the whole concept wrong.
There’s a great deal of value in formal mentoring programs. As a matter of fact, a little later in my career, I had the opportunity to help establish a local chapter of a formal mentoring program. It was a lot of work, but I recall being very pleased that, finally, someone would be able to actually find a place to sign up for a mentor. But mentoring in its very simplest form, is just a relationship. You don’t have to ‘sign up’ to learn from someone else’s experience. Usually, all you have to do is start a conversation.
While I was busy searching for someplace to sign up for a mentor, I am certain I missed countless opportunities that were right in front of me. I did a lot of volunteering for escort duties and formal functions because, well, that’s what you do when you’re a brand new lieutenant. All of those extra duties presented excellent opportunities to meet a host of mentors and ask as many questions as I wanted.
So, what would I do differently, now that I know better?
The real benefit of being mentored is getting a seasoned second opinion. So, if you need a mentor, ask for one.