Mentorship Can Help You From Making Needless Mistakes
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY FORTIS LIFE GROUP CONTRIBUTOR:
BRETT CURRIER | FOUNDER AND CEO | WWW.VETGIGS.COM
As the saying goes “you don’t know what you don’t know”. Thankfully though, mentorship can help you with that. A mentor offers guidance based on their experience. A successful mentor won’t give you all the answers but they can help you from making needless mistakes and wasting time or other resources. In this article I’ll address the power of the network within the Veteran Community, why mentorship is important throughout your career, and some of the mentorship tools I favor as a Veteran, entrepreneur, and professional.
The Veteran Community
Many of us have heard the statistics about how few US Residents serve in the military. It is less than 1%, but when you total the amount who have served over the years, the number is much larger at 17,000,0000! That is vastly more than the estimated sum of ALL Ivy League Alumni added together at a mere 118,000. It has been said that those of us who wear clothing identifying ourselves as Veterans do so not to boast of our service, but to identify ourselves to other Veterans.
Vet Net | The Mentorship Network
In my previous article, I introduced the vast power of the “Vet Net.” I argue that the mentorship network at our disposal is as powerful, if not more, than any Ivy League alumni network. I suggest this because of the sense of camaraderie and commonality built by Veterans, the respect commanded by our selfless service to our country, and the sheer expanse of our community. The power of our network starts with an all-star roster of potential mentors you can tap into throughout your career. Many of these mentors are Veterans, but the roster also includes advocates and supporters who have a respect for our service and want to help us succeed in the civilian workforce. The Veteran Community is tight knit. Studies show that people in general are much more likely to take advice from professionals from their own demographics (sex, race, or community such as Veteran status), but it is short sided to limit your mentor pool to only Veterans. Many seasoned leaders who never served in the military carry a deep respect for our service and want to give back. I have seen CEOs and other executives on Veteran mentorship websites, eager to give back because they respect the commitment that Veterans made to their country, and all they sacrifice over the years. Many had a great deal of value to offer those looking to start or advance in their fields in the form of knowledge, and opportunity. Veterans who have already transitioned into the civilian workforce may have gone on to find success in new careers, but they will almost always find commonality and a deep connection with others who served in the military. Being a mentor was hardwired into most of us, especially NCOs, within the military. We learned at the lowest levels to lookout for our battle buddies, never leave a comrade behind, and to help expand the operational capabilities of our units by teaching others what we know. We instinctively want to continue helping each other when we leave, and I believe that is a driving factor to the success of Veteran mentoring sites such as Veterati.
Mentorship | My Journey in the Civilian Workforce
One area successfully demonstrated by graduates of Ivy League Institutions is the power of networking and mentorship throughout one’s career versus simply as a tool to get started. Ivy leaguers tend to put their alma mater on their LinkedIn headline for a reason. Sure, it is to provide instant brand recognition to potential employers, but it is also a signal for fast connection with other alumni from their institutions. These connections are useful throughout their career when they are jumping to a new employer for a raise in compensation and position. Ivy league alumni seek out fellow alumni mentors when they have started their own companies and need help with problems, or are looking to grow their skills in a new area to build their business. Many people fall prey to a common myth of thinking they no longer need mentorship after attaining a level of success or have met their charted goals. That is a mistake I have certainly made myself and when I did, I experienced a plateau or at least a great slowing of my progress. Another myth around mentorship is that the value is primarily from the mentor to the mentee. Value often flows both ways, especially among professionals. In one instance, I received referrals to top consulting firms from other Veterans but I also was able to earn them referral bonuses. They would have likely helped me without it but it definitely provided them value. When growing as a consultant, I was able to expand my network and experience with the help of mentors. While doing that, I was able to help my mentors with writing proposals, contributing to the success of their initiatives, and demonstrating to their leadership that they have a followership of new consultants. As an entrepreneur, I sought help from professionals to help me build my business and in return, I have been able to hire them as contractors in some cases and give them an opportunity to build their experience by working on new projects without the risk of doing so for a paid client.
Veteran Mentorship Platforms
A number of Veteran mentorship platforms have sprung up over the past few years including Veterati and American Corporate Partners (ACP). Veteran mentorship platforms exist to connect experienced professionals with Veterans seeking help with their transition to or acceleration in the civilian workforce. Veterati allows users to view a plethora of mentors, and request an hour phone call with each mentor. You can contact a mentor repeatedly or have a single call with each mentor as you see fit. ACP is a program in which you are setup with a mentor after an evaluation process to determine your needs. I have found Veterati to be generally user friendly, have a wide variety of mentors available in the fields I’m looking for, has met my mentoring needs at every stage of my career, and has also enabled me to give back as a mentor for those who are looking at getting into consulting or need help with their business. Veterati should be used when you need to move fast and are seeking a mentor for a shorter duration. I’m sure many mentors do work with mentees for longer durations, but in my experience, most insight is received within 1-5 meetings. Contact information is provided for follow ups as needed after your 1 hour call. I have seen mentors ranging from currently serving military leaders, and professionals across many fields that are either retired service members or advocates in the community. I always recommend having a plan for what you want to discuss based on the value you are seeking from the mentor to make the most efficient use of the time. It may change while you’re in the call, and that’s ok, but it is best to be prepared. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re seeking for from your mentor openly, whether that be industry information, ideas about how to break into their field, strategy on how to advance in your career, or an employee referral at their company after they have gotten to know you.
ACP is also a valuable tool but it could not be more different than Veterati. While Veterati is fast moving and agile like the private sector, ACP is formal and structured like the military. The program has a relatively long intake program that can take over a month where they get to know you, your goals, and set you up with a mentor who will work with you for a year long period. I like the idea of this but it is not ideal for most people starting off because they may not have an idea of what kind of mentor they need long term. I recommend starting off with one or many Veterati mentors and as you dial in your plan, your needs, and your 25m, 150m, and 300m goal targets, you will have a better idea of who would be suited to mentor you over the course of a year.
LinkedIn can also be a great source of short term mentors for areas like employee referrals, or preparation to get into a competitive industry. You can link up with other Veterans through Veteran groups, Alumni Groups (military unit or educational institution), and ask them to jump on a call with you. Many are willing to do so and have asked similar requests of others before. Employee referrals can be incredibly helpful at avoiding the black hole that is many online application portals. It is also incredibly productive to ask a successful professional what certifications, training, and other preparation helped them to build marketable skills that aided them in getting to where they are today. It is so much more productive to ask those questions than it is to go off what you read online and spend wasted time taking courses that may not provide commensurate value with the resources you spent in the process.
I hope this has been a helpful oversight on how mentorship can be a powerful resource strand in your net of resources, a few of the mentorship tools available to you as a Veteran, and insight to how mentorship can (and should) be used throughout your career. I’ll be discussing career services for the Veteran Community in my next blog post so stay tuned! Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you may have and I would encourage you to make a free VetGigs profile at www.vetgigs.com to stay in the loop about valuable opportunities in