What is mentoring?

Military life often prevents junior staff from forming friendships with their senior colleagues. This may deprive them of a wealth of experience and career information that senior colleagues hold. In turn this will prevent junior staff from managing their careers with maximum effectiveness.

The mentoring relationship lacks the formality of rank whilst maintaining the respect of junior staff for their seniors. Such a relationship provides the perfect environment for junior staff to reflect on their career aspirations, how they approach their job and promotion, and to figure out what impact certain work commitments will have on their home life.

A mentor can provide the person they are mentoring with access to people, places and ideas outside of their usual environment or thought processes. By providing these additional inputs a mentor can help the person they are mentoring to develop and expand their own knowledge and awareness, and to successfully climb the career ladder. Furthermore, a mentor is a positive role model: someone whom the junior feels able to look up to.

The mentor does not need to be LGB or T themselves for the relationship to work.

If you are interested in being mentored or acting as a mentor, please read the information below and use our mentoring contact form to get in touch.

Guidelines for mentoring
Mentors are: Mentors are not:
  • A friend
  • A guide
  • A listener
  • Someone who can help find resources
  • A confidant
  • Parents
  • Social workers
  • Disciplinarians
  • There to solve someone’s problems for them

The military mentor
For mentoring to work both participants must be able to relate to one another, thus a Maj Gen mentoring a private soldier is unlikely to be successful. We suggest the following pairings recognizing that people still have the freedom to choose:

Mentee Mentor
Pvt – Cpl Sgt and above
Sgt – SSgt Either SM and above if mentor is from ranks,
or Capt and above if mentor is an officer
CMS – Lt RSM, or Major, and above
Capt – Maj Lt Col – Col
Above Maj Case by case basis

For senior officers it may be appropriate to have a mentor who is outside of the Army. This will provide the person being mentored with ideas about management that are wholly different to those from within the Army. The Forum has people from other public bodies who are willing to mentor senior officers.

Being mentored
To gain the most from having a mentor, each person being mentored needs to invest energy into developing the relationship. Here are some key pointers for the person being mentored:

  1. Make time to meet your mentor and discuss your future. The benefits of having access to someone more senior, and outside of your chain of command are many: what you say will have no direct effect on your relationship with your boss; you can think aloud and have your ideas heard without prejudice; someone who is willing to get to know you personally is looking out for your career interests;
  2. Be honest with your mentor. Discuss your work-life balance, the impact of work on your relationships and social life, talk about where you see yourself going and what you would like to achieve. This will help your mentor guide you through the challenges ahead;
  3. Trust your mentor to maintain your confidence. This will allow you to discuss your work situation, your yearly reports, how you think people view you and treat you, and how you get on with your chain of command. Sometimes this will be uncomfortable, but only by being honest can you expect to receive advice that is helpful to your specific situation;
  4. Between you and your mentor decide what goals to set yourself, and what changes you will effect at work and home;
  5. Grow your relationship by touching base regularly with your mentor. Ensure they are kept abreast of your work life.

Being a mentor
Being a mentor requires work. You will need to do the following:

  1. Establish a positive and a personal relationship with the person you are mentoring:
    1. Meet early on to find out about each other. Talk about work and personal life until mutual trust and respect is established. If you feel that you cannot get along, now is the time to stop;
    2. Make your meeting enjoyable and fun: go somewhere that is relaxed; somewhere you can discuss work and social life freely.
  2. Help the person you are mentoring to develop skills:
    1. Figure out what strengths and weaknesses they have. You can ask them directly, look through previous reports (OJARS/SJARS) together, and look for areas to develop;
    2. Plan out specific goals that they can achieve (look for courses, decide on actions to be taken at work, identify extracurricular goals that are life-enhancing);
    3. Share your own life-management skills (i.e. how you approach making difficult decisions, how you set goals, what you do to resolve conflict).
  3. Assist the person you are mentoring to obtain additional resources:
    1. Make them aware of educational resources and career-enhancing courses. Support them in their application;
    2. Where possible provide them with access to people who can influence their careers and personal lives;
    3. Act as a guide and as an advocate, promoting them where possible;
    4. Whilst doing this respect the boundaries of being a mentor. Ultimately you are not responsible for their career counseling: instead you are acting as any friend would when approached for career advice.
  4. Improve the ability of the person you are mentoring to work with people from varied backgrounds:
    1. First you will need to explore the crowd in which they operate. What types of people are missing from this group? What new people might enhance your their own values and beliefs?
    2. Introduce the person you are mentoring to different workplaces so that they achieve a broader appreciation of the military.

The Army LGBT Forum and mentoring
The Forum will facilitate the mentors program in the following ways:

  1. We will keep a database of those who wish to mentor and we will put them in touch with those who wish to be mentored;
  2. We will remind the mentors to meet with those they are mentoring;
  3. We will look for, and provide, the best mentoring resources;
  4. We will organise sessions for mentors to meet each other. This will allow mentors to discuss their approaches to those they are mentoring, in the hope that best practice and good ideas are shared.

Available resources
For further information please look at the following sites: