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Mentor helps guide career development

Published: 11:55AM November 1st, 2012

What is a mentor? In Greek mythology, Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who looked after Odysseus’ son Telemachus when he left to fight the Trojan War.

Today, the word has come to mean a trusted friend or counselor. The mentor is usually someone senior and more experienced who looks after a more junior colleague.

The noun has become a verb, and mentoring is often seen as the process by which an older and wiser colleague passes on wisdom, experience and advice to guide a junior person.

A leader has a responsibility to mentor and prepare future leaders, but service members need to be willing and humble enough to be mentees.

I met my mentor, Master Sgt. Paul Hafer, about 10 years ago. Not only is he still my mentor, he’s a valued friend. Our relationship began during my first assignment to McChord in 2001. I valued his knowledge as I was just settling into my role as a junior NCO.

Hafer discussed my career and goals with me and took an active role in my progression to become a well-rounded NCO.

One of the biggest lessons I learned from him was to interact and share. He shared his mistakes and struggles as well as his successes. Looking back, his advice was not only helpful, it was vital and it still is. As my mentor, he gave me insights that had a deep impact on my Air Force career.

What are the benefits to mentoring? It is one of the most time-effective leadership development activities that facilitate integration of new Airmen into the workforce. Because mentors pass on Air Force core values, ethics and standards, the process ensures the future success of the Air Force. Mentoring helps the mentee and the mentor recognize their abilities and limitations, highlighting areas for future development and increasing motivation. The mentee gains a new direction or perspective, while the mentor feels satisfaction when the mentee succeeds.

Most importantly, we all have a responsibility to prepare future leaders to replace us. Mentoring other Airmen is one of our primary responsibilities.

As the author Zig Ziglar has said, “A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.”