Veteran Transition Tips: Mentorship and Career Growth

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Whether you’ve landed your first civilian job or you’re pivoting into a brand-new industry, mentorship is valuable at any stage of your professional journey. 

For veterans, mentors provide a guiding hand through uncharted waters, and they’re often veterans themselves. Beyond technical skills, the civilian workplace is home to countless nuances that can seem completely alien, and they tend to be unique to the industry or the role.

If you’re feeling lost, advice from someone who’s been in your position at some point goes a long way (and no one understands more than a fellow veteran).

What does mentorship look like in action? Where do you find a mentor anyway? And how do you ask someone? Read on to find out more.  

Defining Mentorship

Mentorship is whatever you want it to be. Advice on how to move up the career ladder, what to say in a job interview, where to look for a new role, how to learn new technical skills or even just a virtual coffee where you moan about your colleagues, you name it, a good mentor can provide it.

It’s worth noting that mentorship is a two-way street – they’re learning from you too. The best mentor/mentee dynamic is one that works for you, there’s no right or wrong, as long as you’re getting what you need out of the relationship.

Mentorship can take many different forms too. Bi-weekly meetings, monthly video calls, virtual coffees, a WhatsApp thread, or 15-minute coffee meetings are all ways people choose to stay in touch. You decide what kind of format fits your needs.

Finding a Mentor

Connecting with your veteran network is a great way to find a mentor who shares your unique experience of the forces, although it’s important to know that they don’t necessarily need to be a veteran themselves. Some people choose mentors who come from completely different backgrounds to give them a fresh perspective on the world.

There are many great platforms online dedicated to helping people find mentors, including Veterati, Soldier for Life, and American Corporate Partners. 

If you’re hoping to take your career to the next level, however, it’s worth seeking a mentor with experience in your specific field (or target field), as they should be able to share valuable first-hand advice.

Asking for Support

It’s worth reaching out directly to people on LinkedIn (check out a cold message guide here) if you see someone in a role that you want or working at a company you admire. You don’t need to know them beforehand, and in reality, that’s sometimes the best way. People typically enjoy being mentors, and it helps their professional development as well as yours, so don’t be afraid to ask.

As for how to ask them – it depends on your rapport and how you want to communicate. You might want to ask them straight up ‘Will you be my mentor?’ Or maybe you’d rather take a softer approach and never even mention the word mentor, even after they’ve been mentoring you for 10 years.

If you need help finding a mentor, the Ex-Military Careers team can give you some expert guidance – reach out to us: here.