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Structure. Opportunity. Support: Mentorship for military students

By Emilia Donnelly, Operations Associate at American Corporate Partners

January is National Mentoring Month, an annual national campaign to increase the number of mentors and promote youth mentoring efforts. This month, American Corporate Partners (ACP) is focusing on helping bring the promise of structure, opportunity and support to transitioning veterans across the United States. Often times, this is best achieved through mentorship opportunities. To truly uncover the best ways for veterans to pursue mentorship, we must first understand the role it plays within military service.

Mentorship is a tradition that is rooted in ancient military history. In the epic poem, The Odyssey, the soldier Odysseus entrusts his kingdom and family to the character, Mentor, when he goes to war. Nowadays, mentors have adapted to assist military service members and their families in a different way, by acting as a touchstone for their protégés to transition to civilian life

American Corporate Partners entered the Veteran Service Organization (VSO) arena because they identified veteran underemployment as a problem and brought forth a unique solution. It was clear that the veteran unemployment rate for the calendar year of 2019 of 3.1 percent[1] was not telling the full story. Some veterans were employed because they were taking whatever jobs they could to make ends meet, even if they were extremely overqualified. Our solution was to provide veterans and spouses of active-duty service members with guidance from mentors in corporate America, “because their service deserves our service.”

To help make University of Phoenix students aware of ACP, we have formed an alliance with University of Phoenix’s Office of Military and Veteran Affairs (OMVA) to provide opportunities for active duty, their spouses, and veterans to be part of a mentorship, but also a chance to consider becoming a mentor. ACP mentorships are free, year-long mentorships between one veteran or spouse of an active duty service member, and one ACP mentor. Pairs are expected to dedicate roughly an hour each month to their mentorship, which might be spent speaking over the phone (or in person), editing a resume, researching internship or career opportunities, or preparing for an upcoming interview. We encourage our participants to carve time out for their mentorship so that they can stay on track to reach the goals they identify at the start.

Since 2008, we’ve sponsored more than 16,000 successful mentorships, meaning the protégé made strides towards their professional development over the year. While the protégés, or mentees, are the ones taking charge of their own destinies with the sound advice of their mentor along the way, the pair is aided by an ACP operations associate who facilitates the mentorship to maximize its effect.

The ACP mentorship is between the pair alone, but we find that they continue to succeed because operations associates play a key role in ensuring that the mentorship lasts. Our role is simple enough: check in with each party every four to eight weeks to see what they’re currently working on, and provide additional resources if needed–anything from articles discussing how to negotiate salary, to resume templates, to “5 Ted Talks to Watch Before Your Next Interview.

These periodic check-ins are intended to work as gentle reminders for when life presents circumstances that impede one’s ability to commit to their monthly meeting. After all, a year is a long time, and it’s easy for either person to “skip” a meeting or two when no one is holding them accountable.

ACP has seen mentorships flourish due to our direct involvement, proving that sometimes an extra push is needed to get the ball rolling. Between the structure of ACP’s Mentoring program and the bonus of facilitation, ACP has been a key advocate for veterans and spouses of active duty military service members for the past 12 years, and will continue its mission for years to come.

Our program turns out men and women who are more confident, skilled and ready to advocate for themselves in the private sector than when they came in, by revealing to them the capabilities they have had all along. The mentors in our program are not miracle workers: they just make it easier for their protégés to access their own potential. This is showcased in part by the amount of protégés who come through our program and gain meaningful employment either during or after the year of their participation.

ACP was founded in an effort to combat veteran underemployment, because the worst disservice we can do to our country is turn our backs on those who are ready and qualified to continue their service in corporate America.

If you are interested in joining ACP’s program, veterans and those approaching their transition should apply here and spouses should apply here. One of our operations associates will reach out to you about your application within 24 hours. We look forward to reciprocating your service.