by Sunshine Burgess
“One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.” ~John C. Maxwell
Have you ever been told that you should find a mentor? Do you even know what a mentor is exactly? A mentor is someone who guides you. Their role is to be dependable, engaged, honest and supportive. They should be someone ahead of you who has already walked in your shoes. A mentor is a person that has been there, done that and who is willing to help you navigate situation similar to their own. So, yes, you need a mentor. You may need several because depending on your circumstances, there is not a one size fits all mentor. If you are in school or hoping to be, you need someone who can guide your educational decisions. If you have a career, you need someone in your field, maybe a boss or former boss, who understands your particular field and can assist and support you moving up in the industry. If you are a parent, it is wonderful to have someone you can depend on for solid advice. And yes, unequivocally yes, as a military spouse, you need a mentor. Not a person who has a week or two on you of time, but someone at least a couple of years ahead of you who has experience.
I personally feel that the best way to find a mentor is to just pay attention to the people around you. When you are going to depend on someone to be your guide, you want to be sure that they are not guiding you off a cliff! First and foremost, you need to actually like them. If you wouldn’t want to be friends with a spouse, then you probably shouldn’t establish a mentoring relationship with them. Would you want to take parenting advice from someone who raised a serial killer? Maybe it wasn’t anything they did as a parent, but are you willing to take that chance? When you think you have found the perfect mentor, take some time to observe them. Is this someone you want to be like? Mentoring will lead you on a path. Even with free will, people are more inclined to be swayed in their decision making when opinions and advice come from someone they respect. Is the path that this person will lead you on the path you want to take?
A mentor should be knowledgeable. Your military spouse mentor ideally should be a few years ahead of you in military life. A mentor should be able to provide information when needed and information you can depend on. If you are about to PCS for the first time and you have a long list of questions, concerns, and a little anxiety, wouldn’t you be more comfortable getting your support and information from someone who has done a PCS or, even better, several? Again…pay attention. No one is going to walk up to you and say “I want to be your mentor”. It isn’t a paid position in which they must meet a quota. Pay attention and you will find that person who seems to have the answers to most of the questions. They seem to navigate all situations with ease and always seem to know just what to wear to events and which events are worth attending. They are connected and are seldom introverts. They have amazing checklists and tricks to surviving deployments and PCS. Don’t you want to be in on that wealth of knowledge?
Don’t stress. Open yourself up to the idea of a mentor and I am sure you will find one in due time but do find one. Sometimes life can seem overwhelming and that is especially true with military life. Everything becomes much more manageable when you have someone in your corner that you trust that can guide you. You don’t have to do this alone, so why choose to do so? Someone has traveled the road you are on or the one you want to take and it only makes sense to ask for directions.