7 ways you can mentor a fellow veteran

From Military.com | By Lida Citroën

As you leave the military, you’re likely being encouraged to find a mentor – someone who can guide you, advise you, and provide information and introductions for you as you enter the civilian workforce. Since 80 percent of new jobs come through a personal connection, networking and mentoring are critical for today’s job seeker.

Have you considered, however, how you could help a servicemember separating or retiring by mentoring them? As someone who is on the path to a successful transition, you have skills, insights, information and other resources to share.

Here are 7 ways you can mentor a veteran (as a veteran):

  1. Tell them what worked/didn’t work for you. You’ve made the transition and (hopefully) are doing well. What did you do that you’re glad you did. What do you regret? What was the best or worst advice you received? Share this insight with a veteran embarking on their transition.

  2. Help expand their network. Coming out of the military, it’s likely that the veteran knows other servicemembers, veterans and military workers. If you’ve started to form your own network of professional contacts, consider making some introductions for the veteran to people who would be good influencers. These people can help that veteran jump-start the development of their own personal network on contacts.

  3. Check in with them often. Even if you don’t have anything specific to review or discuss, drop your veteran mentee a quick email or phone call to check in. See if they are doing ok: Are they getting out? Have they had any meetings? Is there anything you can do to help? You know, as a veteran, that asking for help is challenging. Provide the opening by initiating the call.

  4. Meet them for coffee, lunch or breakfast. If it’s at all possible, try to meet with your mentee in person. Even a quick coffee meeting in the middle of the day can help someone who is struggling to stay connected to their community. For many veterans, the transition can feel isolating. Physically check in with them if you can.

  5. Invite them to events and gatherings and go with them. You likely resisted the idea of networking with strangers when you first transitioned out of the military. Invite your mentee to go with you to a job fair, networking event, or social gathering. Having someone with them eases the tension and makes the situation more tolerable.

  6. Cheer them up. If you come across a funny joke email (one that isn’t potentially offensive,) send it to your mentee. Your email might arrive at just the moment they were feeling down or lost.

  7. Keep their perspective in check. Think back to those first days, weeks and months of your own transition: The fear, anxiety, hope, and excitement you felt as you left the comforts and familiarity of the military to enter the next chapter of your life. Every feeling you had is likely going through the mind of the veteran you are mentoring. Use that information to help them keep perspective of the ups and downs of the transition.

Sharing what you know with someone coming up behind you is an inherent aspect of military service, and one you can leverage in the civilian sector. Finding a servicemember or veteran who seeks guidance, support and information, and mentoring them to success, is a rewarding way to serve those who’ve served.