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Mentorship: An investment in yourself, others, and the greater good

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- I recall entering the service many years ago and the feeling of excitement about the opportunities. I was extremely eager to make an impact on my career and my organization; however, my insecurities and feelings of intimidation and, quite honestly, inadequacy would keep me from doing so for some time.

You see, I was a young service member who quickly realized I had much to learn about serving in the military. My leaders spent time teaching and coaching me in my primary roles of being a soldier and a human resource specialist, and I became comfortable with those skills.

I believed the time and effort that was invested in me, up to that point, would be enough to set me on a path to achieve my goals. What I didn't know was being comfortable wasn't the same as being proficient and that the impact I was looking to make on my career and any organization couldn't happen without further development.

Some time had passed before I was finally exposed to the concept of mentorship. Mentorship, by definition, is a voluntary relationship between individuals with significant experience and individuals with less experience through which knowledge, experience and advice is shared.

Throughout my career, my mentors were able to guide me in developing action plans to improve my knowledge, skills and abilities. Through their effective mentorship, I learned to proactively approach tasks, using creative and independent thinking.

I was provided guidance in enhancing my career and was able to avoid many obstacles that could have set me back. Ensuring I had the right mentor was important to the success of the process. Identifying individuals who were patient, supportive and respected as professionals as well as effective teachers and motivators was paramount.

Mentorship is known to advance careers quickly, and I attribute much of my success to mentors who took the time to help me grow personally and professionally.

Mentorship not only provides a number of benefits to mentees but also to mentors and organizations. Mentors continuously hone their management, leadership and communication skills in carrying out their duties, enhancing their own professional development.

Should leaders mentor individuals within their section, the team's cohesion and loyalty is strengthened. I've also found that mentorship provides an opportunity to give back and a sense of satisfaction from helping others.

Organizations gain tremendously from mentorship through the establishment of individuals' roles in carrying out strategic goals. This creates a greater sense of involvement in organizations and leads to increased performance and productivity.

The military thrives on the retention of quality service members. Mentorship strengthens an individual's commitment to service. Everyone in the mentorship process stands to gain something.

Mentorship proved and still proves to be a powerful tool for my personal and professional development.

If you haven't participated in the mentorship process, I encourage you to start. Whether you're new to the military or have served for years, everyone can benefit from mentorship. Personal and professional development is an undertaking that shouldn't end until the end.

And to those who can give back, know that in doing so you will be enhancing not only the individual you are mentoring, but yourself and possibly your organization as well.