HomeNewsArticle Display

Viewpoints: Mentors can come by way of networks, shared advice

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- The importance of having a good mentor cannot be understated. Every career development plan tells you to find a mentor to help you grow. But oftentimes, when we talk about mentoring, it seems like we picture having one mentor who is senior to show you the ropes.

I would definitely say that I’ve been mentored since entering the Air Force, but my experience has not followed this model. I’ve been lucky to have several people I would consider mentors, and most of them are younger than I am. They have just had a longer tenure in the Air Force.

I didn’t find my mentors through any kind of formal mentoring program. In my first assignment, I developed a great mentoring relationship with my supervisor and the two contracting officers who oversaw the bulk of my work. As time has passed and I’ve moved offices, I realize that I tend to rely on them for different things – I’m far more likely to ask my old supervisor about human resources-related questions, and I’m more likely to ask my former contracting officer colleagues technical questions about the regulations pertaining to acquisition.

I know I can call on them at any time and they will help me figure out a path forward. All three of them have offered fantastic advice about how to grow in my field and what steps are the best to take to advance – what training, professional military education, or knowledge, skills and abilities I might need and how to get them.

I also consider some of my peers mentors. I found them through the Junior Force Council, and they are not in my career field. But they have been on base a lot longer than I have, and can tell me who is who, and how to get things done. Having this background knowledge of how the base works at large, and important tips for protocol have been enormously helpful. I don’t want to be remembered as the person who forgot to stand up when an important person entered the room.

My recommendation is to find a network of people you trust and who know more than you do. The Air Force is a huge organization, with a lot of protocol and various offerings for training and education, and nearly as many paths to success. It’s great to know that wherever I go, there are several people who are invested in my career and who want to see me succeed.