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Four Traits to Look for in a Career Mentor


To find a great mentor will take work and effort on your part. However, the payoff is priceless.

Do you have a career mentor? We often speak of mentorship in the military. As you begin your military transition journey, having a mentor is a critical factor in finding a great job in your desired career field. You may have someone you think is a great mentor for your military transition, but how do you know if they will be able to provide transition assistance and guidance? Before you begin your search, take some time to think about what you are trying to acquire from a career mentor. Here are a few thoughts.

First, you need to find someone who is honest and cares about you.

This can be intimidating. Realize this is going to be an intimate relationship, as the mentor needs to know your strengths and weaknesses. They must be willing to point and give suggestions for personal improvement areas.

Second, your mentor should be someone who you can reach out to; who is willing to listen and advise when needed.

Your career mentor should be aware of your interview activities and they should be a sounding board for you, when things don’t go as well as you expect. Finally, your mentor should be able to help you create actionable objectives as you look to reach your career milestones.

Third, your mentor should know the career field you are pursuing.

They should be able to identify resources that might provide professional training. As you get close to transition, the utility and availability of your uniformed mentors will diminish. They will be busy performing their military mission. Further, they may not have the knowledge required to provide essential transition and career field guidance for you. You need to find a civilian who is working in the career field that you desire to get into.

Fourth, if you don’t know anybody who would be a qualified mentor, you need to get busy and join a networking organization.

These organizations have a tremendous number of great professionals, willing to get involved in your life. Seek out both professional organizations such as the American Legion, and informal meet-ups. Join local career field specific groups of interest, such as the Project Management Institute (PMI), Microsoft Azure or Project Server User Group, a Scrum Alliance community group, or American Academy of Medical Administrators (AAMA). If you are a military engineer, consider a local chapter of a state or national society for engineers.
Getting involved with these organizations not only enhances your knowledge and professional capabilities, it also increases your network. The biggest windfall of your network is interacting with seasoned professionals, many of whom are more than willing to mentor you during your current job hunt and provide guidance for your future career. Many of these pros genuinely desire to help, as they are veterans or veteran friendly!

One last thought. When entering a mentor relationship, take a long-term approach. Understand your mentor may provide invaluable guidance for years to come and perhaps become a lifelong friend. To find a great mentor will take work and effort on your part. However, the payoff is priceless.

Wishing you a lucrative and successful transition.

Jay Hicks

About the author
Jay Hicks is an author, instructor and consultant, with over 30 years of business and government leadership experience. After a distinguished Army career, Jay developed multiple project management organizations for several defense contract organizations. With a special kinship for military personnel, Jay provides guidance on successful military transition. Finding his noble purpose, Jay has published “The Transitioning Military Information Technology Professional”, along with multiple other books and articles, assisting numerous military personnel in their personal quest for a successful and lucrative post-military career.

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