As a transitioning veteran, it’s important to note that your challenge isn’t over once you’ve received a job offer. You will remain in the process of transition for months after you’ve started work in a new job. There will be new people to meet, new organizational norms to understand, and many new processes which you will need to learn in order to be successful.
Working in a new job without the support of a mentor is like playing a card game with no one there to tell you the rules. This is why it is so important to seek out great mentors.
A mentor is someone who is typically senior to you in the organization and is willing to share knowledge, advocate on your behalf, and provide professional guidance. That doesn’t mean seniority is a prerequisite; mentors can be peers or near-peers as well. Knowledge, skills, abilities, and networks (not to mention a tangible, meaningful interest) determine candidates for this kind of relationship. Mentor-mentee relationships can be formal, communicating with a set frequency and working towards established milestones. These relationships can also be casual and fairly low-maintenance. Here are three reasons why you should look for a mentor when you start a new job:
Mentors help you get to know a new organization.
By the time you left the service, you probably had a lot figured out about how to be successful, who has influence, and what framework people need to follow in order to get where they want to go in their careers. In a new work environment, especially in your first civilian job, you will be starting entirely from scratch. You will develop assumptions and theorize on how to operate in your new work structure, but without a mentor, you will have to test all of these assumptions yourself. A mentor can quickly answer your questions and point in you in the right direction preventing you from making an unnecessary misstep. Mentors also provide perspective! They know the organization better than you do, and can provide insight as to how or why something’s happening. This is crucial, and can help you react or respond to a situation with better intelligence in hand.
Mentors help connect you with the right people.
When you reach the end of your military career, you may be fortunate enough to still have some of your pre-military network around you. Those networking efforts must continue within your new organization, if you wish to advance or work in other areas later in your career. Networking in a new company tends to happen organically in meetings, workgroups, or office gatherings. Still, it is helpful to have a mentor who can tell you exactly who will be able to help with a problem you’re stuck on or even advance your career in your desired direction.
Mentors help you find new opportunities.
Opportunities in the civilian world are often not shared with a broader audience. The leadership of your organization may have knowledge of a project or assignment that would be perfect for you, but if they don’t know you and trust you as a competent employee, you’ll have no opportunity to compete. It’s important to share your career aspirations with your mentor so they know how and when to promote you to others. Having a well-connected mentor who recognizes your potential and understands what you wish to accomplish can give you a tremendously sharp edge, even over others who have been with the organization longer. Your personal brand and your ability to network and connect will always be important, whether you’re looking for a job or not.
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