Photo Credit: Caitlin Brandl
Imagine having a personal career strategist on your team as you transition out of the military.
Someone with civilian workforce expertise, an understanding of hiring practices, connections in your industry, and most importantly, someone who genuinely wants to see you succeed.
Envisage bouncing ideas off this guru while you leverage shared professional connections and are guided through your post-military career decision-making process.
You might be surprised to learn that there is a free program that facilitates this and it is available to all currently serving military members and veterans.
The Veteran eMentor Leadership Program was founded in 2012 to bridge the gap between structured classroom-based seminars and life on the outside. It connects veterans to experienced civilian professionals who have volunteered their time to advise service members as they move into the wider workforce.
Using the Internet, protégés are matched and connected with mentors. Mentors assist their protégés with navigating the job search process, exploring their potential industry or role, developing resumes, and selling their accomplishments to someone without a military background. If you are ready to start your job search check out our job board for veterans, we have thousands of Military Friendly® Employers ready to hire right now.
“Graduates” of the Veteran eMentor Leadership Program , like Caitlin Brandl, cannot praise the program enough. Experiencing what she describes as “the most challenging time of her life,” Brandl found herself unemployed for four months after leaving the Coast Guard. Lacking confidence and direction, she enrolled in Veteran eMentor and was connected with Brage Garofalo, a senior manager in the pharmaceuticals and biotech industry.
Despite coming from very different industry backgrounds, the mentoring match was exactly what she needed. “Brage helped me think through my job search strategy, set career goals, and offered me the support and encouragement I needed. When I was offered my job, she was the first person I called and she celebrated with me.”
eMentor Program Director Erica Hartless explains that mentors in the program know how to market a veteran in the civilian workplace. “They help their protégés articulate their accomplishments, give them the confidence they need, and aid them in planning and building a professional network as they go forward.”
It is something she appreciates the importance of first-hand. “When I got out of the Army I had no civilian friends. I had been deeply engrossed in the military throughout my seven years of active duty time. I had no one to reach out to, and walking up to a stranger and asking for help was difficult.”
Photo Credit: Caitlin Brandl
So Who Are These Mentors?
With more than 500 active mentors in the program, there is tremendous diversity in industry, role and company representation. More than 70 companies, including Fortune 500 entities such as General Electric, Toyota, Deloitte and Microsoft, have partnered with the program and actively encourage staff to become mentors. Other mentors, who have become involved with the program independently, represent an additional 400 companies.
Some, like former Director Stefanie Goebel, are veterans who have successfully built civilian careers and want to share their knowledge and experience. Others like Garofalo, have no real military affiliation but want the opportunity to assist veterans in the best way they can. “After 9/11 I wanted to give back. I had watched a friend struggling to re-acclimate after their time in the military and I began to research grassroots organizations where I felt I could make a difference.”
More than 15 protégés later, Garofalo continues to advise and help veterans, with many of her protégés re-connecting as they move into new positions or face new challenges in the civilian workforce. “It is one of the most gratifying things I do,” says Garofalo. “Veterans take aspects of their job for granted and don’t recognize how significant those skills are in a civilian setting. I can help show them how valuable and relevant their skill set is.”
What Can You Expect If You Sign Up?
The eMentor program is free and provides its members with a personalized level of service. As a transitioning veteran, the program allows you to search mentor profiles and seek out a specific mentor. Alternatively, you can indicate the type of assistance you need, and eMentor staff will match you with the most appropriate connection.
Some protégés want assistance reframing their military experience for a resume or interview; others need a sounding board where they can explore career options. Some look more specifically for someone to advise them on their specific industry.
What Does A Mentoring Relationship Look Like?
One of the most powerful characteristics of the eMentor program is that it offers the flexibility for each relationship to evolve in a unique way. Although the relationships usually start through email, the vast majority progress to regular phone conversations or in-person meetings.
Garofalo explained, “It is not a wash, rinse, repeat formula.” Although mentors receive a suggested framework to structure the relationship during the initial three-month period, the way the participants communicate, the topics they discuss, and how they develop the professional relationship is up to them.
How Long Does The Mentoring Relationship Last?
In short, it lasts as long as the protégé and mentor feel it needs to. Most relationships average three to four months through transition, but others develop into an ongoing mentoring relationship. Many participants have become friends and continue to share and discuss professional challenges and accomplishments to this day.
When Should I Sign Up?
Sadly many people do not discover the eMentor program until after they have left the military and find themselves struggling to get established in the civilian world.
Hartless’s advice, “The ideal time to sign up is six months to a year out from your transition. That is when you should be in the planning phase. Don’t ever be afraid that you are wasting a mentor’s time because you don’t know exactly what you want to do.”
With more than 2,000 veterans participating in the program in its first three years, and 1,200 protégés actively engaged at present, eMentor is growing rapidly and making a marked difference in the lives of both its mentor and protégé participants.
Interested in joining the program? Visit www.ementorprogram.org to learn more.
Mentor: “An experienced and trusted advisor; guru; confidant”
Protégé: “A person guided and supported in their career by a more experienced or influential person”
- 71% of protégés hired into new jobs credit eMentor with helping them get hired.
- 80% of protégés said the program has given them higher morale as a veteran.
- 74% of protégés reported that their mentor gave them help with other issues related to their transition to civilian life.
- 95% of mentors said their participation in the program has increased their understanding of the issues veterans face today.
MENTOR IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Name: Brage Garofalo
Industry: Pharmaceutical and Biotech Manager
Protégés: More than 15 over three years
Whatever motivates her protégés. She enjoys speaking with them, texts those who avoid answering their phones, insisted one locally based protégé join her for a trail run before a career strategy session over brunch, and remains in contact with many of her former protégés to this day.
Her advice to transitioning veterans:
- Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn.
- Don’t be afraid to fail.
- It is NEVER too early to start planning.
What else does Veteran eMentor Leadership Program offer?
Aside from the Veteran eMentor Leadership Program, eMentor also offers free mentoring programs to women officers and senior enlisted personnel, military spouses, and cadet midshipman. EMentor can also develop customized internal mentoring programs for commercial companies.
At G.I. Jobs our mission is to simplify the military transition experience using education and employment tools and resources to guide you to a successful career. Take our Military To Civilian Transition Readiness Quiz to see how prepared you really are.
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