It's not about you anymore, or is it?

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Garrett Scott Vail
  • Air Reserve Personnel Center
When I was promoted to chief master sergeant, my command chief told me it wasn't about me anymore. And, in being a chief master sergeant, he was right on the mark. It is all about our Airmen. And mentoring is all about our Airmen, too. But, in the case of being a mentor, is it all about me?

A mentor, as defined in AFI 36-3401, is "a trusted counselor or guide." Someone with more experience who has "been there, done that," guiding someone else who is searching for that knowledge and experience. Most often mentoring begins with the question, "How do I get to where you are today?" Though no person travels the exact path of those traveled before, there are similarities each person experiences. And, through mentoring, I get to share my stories to those interested.

Mentoring is relationship based, and takes two interested professionals to be successful. When I say successful, I don't mean you will get promoted, or earn that next level of responsibility position, or find that all is simple and clear in life.

Successful mentorship is a structured program, based on communication, and it takes many forms. It can be formal or informal and is relevant to work, career progression and professional development. A relationship based on the needs of one provided by the experience of another. It doesn't replace formal feedback, and it won't provide you immediate results. But, it will prepare you for greater responsibilities and is as important as fitness in my opinion.

For an organization to have a strong mentorship program, its leaders must be active, and communication must be free. Free communication, you ask? What do you mean, chief? I don't mean charging a fee for sharing my experiences. Free, as in honest, straight-forward and to the point. When I mentor, I don't worry about feelings. I am not saying I am mean or character judging; I tell it like it is because unless I am honest in my feedback and communication, I am not being a true mentor. Bring up the hard stuff. Get to the point, and don't hold back. It's a win/win for everyone. Because mentoring allows you to be open to choose the relationship, it also allows how often you meet, what is discussed, and there are no limits. Make the relationship strong by being completely honest.

Use the tools available. My Enlisted Development Plan, or MyEDP on the Air Force Portal, is a great resource to get you started on selecting a mentor and beginning your formal relationship and journey. Have many mentors, too. Each mentor brings a different perspective and hopefully will make you think. Oh, and if you think the communication is the end of mentoring, think again. It is a conscious act. It should be scheduled regularly. Have a planned structure and results should be expected. Make it part of your task management and put it on your calendar.

I have many Airmen seeking my mentorship, both formally and informally, and being a mentor and involved in a mentorship program is very humbling and rewarding. Knowing someone is looking at me for guidance and direction to help guide their career makes it seem that it is all about me. But, it isn't. It is about taking care of those committed to excellence both personally and professionally. And if I can help make our Airmen and our mission more successful, sign me up!