Viewpoints: Mentors can help shape career outlook, resiliency

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- My mom was the first woman to go to college in the family, and I’m fortunate enough to be the first generation able to set a course for my career, rather than having the course set by the circumstances. It can be a little challenging, not having family members to ask for career-specific guidance. After all, I think most of us want to avoid taking the long way around if a more direct route is available. That can be hard to do if you don’t know someone who has already been there and who understands how the system operates. 

That is one type of perspective a mentor can give you. Another is learning how to make the most of what you can control, like attitude and self-improvement. At first, I thought it was odd all my mentors loved their jobs, even though they definitely had their share of bad days. I then realized most of them had great attitude -- enthusiasm and real gratitude for mentors they had.

I think something about that approach to career helps them transform work into something more; something about that mindset also helps them be resilient, to always find a solution to work through the mess, while knowing there is a dimension beyond the mess. There is something grounded beyond performance so, even if I fail today, and even if I fail big, it’s going to be OK tomorrow.

Overall, I think I needed to make a mind-shift because I was stuck with the mindset that work is like school: I get to choose my courses, choose my major, and then follow a linear training plan until I reach my goal and get the rewards. I’m discovering it isn’t that simple.

Through mentors sharing their career stories and what paths the journey has taken them, I’ve learned the goal isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. That perspective allows me to be more open and patient and acknowledge that sometimes in the waiting, I’m developing skills and relationships necessary for the next step -- it’s not always the acquisition of head knowledge or milestones on a resume. As long as I keep working on improving, keep making the most of what I can contribute to the team, I’ll succeed.

In conclusion, mentors have taught me not only how to avoid pitfalls, but also how to broaden my perspective on how I define career to move beyond the narrow focus and see what a chance I have to build into an awesome work community and world-class enterprise that delivers results for something far bigger than just me.