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Mentoring Works: Top Use Cases and Best Practices for Veteran Mentoring Programs

Mentoring is effective for developing relationships, which is why many organizations find it beneficial for uses such as diversity and developing women as leaders. But mentoring is also highly successful when it comes to supporting members of the military.

Why is this important? In 2013, the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University found that 15 percent of the companies they surveyed had a veteran workforce that is greater than 50 percent of their total workforce. Veterans have many skills to offer, and it’s a wise move for companies to nurture their employees for a more productive, happier workplace.

The Uses of Veteran Mentoring

There are many ways in which mentoring can be beneficial to military members. Whether it’s assisting ex-service members, helping current members transition out of the military, or providing guidance to families, mentoring can play a key role when it comes to supporting our troops.

Veteran Mentoring Within the Workplace

Organizations often find veteran mentoring programs rewarding as a way to attract candidates, support current employees, and boost morale. They use their mentoring programs to help veterans as they’re adjusting to civilian life.

Although one-on-one mentoring can be a very valuable format to guide veterans, so can group mentoring or mentoring circles. Whatever format you choose, it’s essential that it’s a space where veterans are welcome and heard.

Don’t feel that all of the mentors have to be veterans, however. Veterans are often looking for more than a shared military experience, and can always choose whether to opt in to having a civilian mentor. Non-military mentors can still offer career advice and guidance.

Veteran Mentoring Outside of the Workplace

When it comes to aspects of veteran mentoring that are outside of a specific job, nonprofits and government organizations often step in to fill the gap. There are other groups that fall under the realm of military mentoring, including:

  1. Current military members transitioning into civilian life
  2. Military families that desire support
  3. Women in the military

1. Current military members transitioning into civilian life

Current military members often like programs that are designed to help them line up a job for their re-entry into civilian life, or help them create a plan for school or job training. Military members who have the opportunity to meet with a supportive person can benefit greatly from the guidance and support that a mentoring relationship provides.

2. Military families that desire support

There are two scenarios here. Military families often need support – and so do military members with families.

Under the first scenario, military families face constant change. Whether it’s adjusting to life with a family member who is constantly away on deployment or frequently moving to different locations, military life can be tough. Having a mentor can be incredibly beneficial to help military spouses find jobs or simply adjust to living in a new location.

Under the second scenario, military members often find it difficult to be away from their families. They also know their families are struggling with constant moves to new locations. Those burdens can be greatly lightened with the support of a qualified mentor.

3. Women in the military

Female officers, veterans, and military officer candidates face unique challenges when assimilating into the civilian workforce. A robust and well-structured veteran mentoring program is of paramount importance to help give back to veterans who have already given so much themselves.

In addition, women often face difficulty in rising within the military. Many of our tips for developing women as leaders in the workplace can be helpful in this scenario as well.

Best Practices for Veteran Mentoring Programs

Cultivating a successful veteran mentoring program can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be if you focus on some key points:

  1. Set expectations. It’s important that both mentor and mentee understand what to expect from the relationship from the outset. It can be helpful for mentor participants to create a guide for themselves that outlines their roles, expectations, and commitments.
  2. Think carefully about who the mentors would be. Will the mentors be former service members only, which would limit the mentor pool? Respected local citizens? High-performing coworkers? Spend some time to think about who you want to make up your mentor pool.
  3. Communicate two to four times monthly and ensure prompt responses. Support and consistency are crucial to a successful mentorship.
  4. Encourage participation. Design a marketing plan and recruiting strategy for your veteran mentorship program by publicizing the program to employees and the community. Matching candidates based on interest and experience will drive the success of your program and mentoring software can be a great tool to help you do this.
  5. Expand mentoring outside of one-on-one relationships. Examples of this could include creating monthly activities such as networking events, breakfasts with a CEO or local community leader, and discussion groups focusing on relevant issues.
  6. Define the goals of your program. Make sure program participants define their own goals, but you should also remember to define the goals of the program as a whole. Is your veteran mentoring program designed to provide mental support, or perhaps to get veterans hired? Answering these questions for yourself will help guide a successful mentoring program.

The Benefits of Veteran Mentoring

The advantages of a well-established veteran mentoring program are far greater than just numbers on paper.

Not only do veteran mentoring programs benefit both mentors and mentees by strengthening their professional skills, collaboration, leadership, peer understanding, and network, but a successful program will have striking impact on an organization. In fact, assisting veterans in making a smoother transition back into civilian life or supporting them as they’re in the military can have reverberations that can boost an entire community and will only stand to strengthen organizational morale, family dynamics, and workplace relationships.

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