His time in the military taught him to push past his limits, but it also made him aware that "without great teachers and mentors, we can only accomplish so much," says Army veteran David Fletcher (MBA/Marketing, 2019).

Fletcher — who turned 40 last month — learned this first-hand. Restarting life as a civilian at 24 years old after nearly eight years in the service, Fletcher struggled to translate his military experience into marketable skills that employers sought.

This is a common challenge for many veterans. "When service members transition out of the military, they often find the leadership and peer support they were accustomed to gone," says Brian Ishmael, senior director for the Office of Military and Veteran Affairs at University of Phoenix (UOPX).

The value of mentorship

"When I started looking for civilian work, competition was fierce. I didn't have a degree or know about mentorship opportunities. I also had virtually no connections outside the military, which made things harder," Fletcher says. "Once I got into my bachelor's program, I quickly recognized I wasn't as prepared as I thought."

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David F. Thanks His Mentor Lisa

Then came the piece of the puzzle that Fletcher was missing — a mentorship with American Corporate Partners (ACP), a non-profit organization that pairs military-affiliated students with volunteer mentors who are business leaders in their fields.

"ACP has set the standard," Ishmael says. Since 2017, the University's partnership with ACP has placed more than 150 UOPX students with a mentor.

As Fletcher can attest, a program like ACP provides an invaluable link between military and civilian life by helping mentees expand their professional network and develop career skills to be successful. "At UOPX, I realized that if I didn't adapt and develop my soft skills, it would be hard to communicate, demonstrate my actual skills and grow in a career," Fletcher says.

Through ACP, Fletcher was paired with a mentor at Merriam-Webster. Over the year, the two worked closely to polish his presentation and communication skills. Once he got those down, Fletcher returned for a second mentorship with a former Marine, where he learned how to apply his military experience and strategic thinking to solve everyday business challenges.

"In the program, I was able to move mountains and accomplish things I never thought possible," Fletcher says.

Lessons learned

Before ACP, Fletcher struggled to find resources to help him prepare for a career in the private sector. Now he encourages other veterans to start planning early to avoid some of the post-military pitfalls he experienced.

"It's a lesson I've never forgotten," Fletcher says, "both in the recent completion of my MBA with UOPX and in furthering my career."

Today, Fletcher is vice president of sales and marketing for an office furniture supplier in Southern California. His experiences have inspired him to guide others on their life paths. He plans to be an ACP mentor to help transitioning veterans overcome the same challenges he faced. He also wants to pursue teaching as another way to give back.

"You're going to have obstacles, but how you react to them is what matters," says Fletcher. "When you embrace your past experiences, accept your vulnerabilities, and ask for help, you'll find success."

Watch Fletcher speak about his experience with ACP here. For information about ACP and other programs for military-affiliated students, visit www.phoenix.edu/military.

By Mariela Jurado, Senior Writer, University of Phoenix, and Christine Martínez retired Navy Senior Chief/Program and Partnership Manager, UOPX Office of Military and Veteran Affairs.