Feb 4, 2013
NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. — NAVAIR hosted its first national mentoring fair Jan. 15 to commemorate Mentoring Awareness Month.
“At NAVAIR, we know that mentors make all the difference,” said Rear Adm. Kirby Miller, NAVAIR vice commander. “Actively participating in NAVAIR’s mentoring program develops leadership at all levels and makes our organization stronger, which benefits our warfighters. At the end of the day, we all share the same goal — to ensure our warfighters have what they need to fight and win.”
The fair gave 400 employees, nationally, the chance to hear personal testimonials from mentors and mentees, register in NAVAIR’s upgraded online iMentor tool and participate in breakout discussion sessions and speed mentoring.
Mentoring strengthens teamwork, improves job satisfaction, promotes succession planning and builds lifelong friendships, Miller said. According to a 2002 study published in Academy of Management Journal, mentees also experience higher positive job attitudes, career satisfaction, commitment and mobility.
“Mentoring is all about not having to learn lessons the hard way,” said NAVAIR Commander Vice Adm. David Dunaway.
Miller shared a lesson he learned when his mentor did not agree with something he said in an open forum. But instead of lecturing or talking down to him, Miller’s mentor instead asked him behind closed doors why he said what he had said.
“After I explained myself with great confidence, he respectfully gave me examples of how it could have been handled differently,” Miller said. “And he was right. My mentor’s approach with me continues to resonate with me — as his mentee and as a mentor to others.”
Mentor Kathy Mattson, director of the Tactical Aircraft and Missiles Contracts Dept., agreed that mentoring helps both the mentee and NAVAIR as a whole.
“Mentoring is something that each person should consider and actively pursue,” she said. “As a mentor, I can definitely say that it is a great feeling to watch others grow and succeed.”
One of Mattson’s mentees, Meagan Foster, said having a mentor has exceeded her expectations. Foster first found a mentor as part of a requirement for a developmental program. She quickly saw the value of mentoring, and after she had completed the program, found additional mentors to guide her through the next phase of her career.
“The mentoring opportunities available to us as NAVAIR employees are truly unique and amazing experiences that should not be missed,” she said. “I highly encourage everyone to explore where these opportunities can lead them in their personal and professional development.”
For employees new to mentoring, Miller gave four pieces of advice:
1. Find the right mentor.
2. Have the courage to seek out mentors and mentees who bring different cultural and professional outlooks to your day-to-day work life.
3. Take the time to clearly define what it is you want to gain from your mentoring relationship.
4. Stay open to the possibilities.
NAVAIR’s mentoring program, established in 2007, offers training, a mentoring handbook and toolkit and speed mentoring sessions. The program’s iMentor tool helps match potential mentors and mentees based on skills, interests, geographic location, experience or keywords. The iMentor tool recently underwent a facelift to give it the look and feel of a social network, including options to edit personal information and upload photos. Non-NAVAIR employees can also use iMentor.
“Currently, there is no other Navy IT system quite like NAVAIR’s iMentor,” said Donna Belcher, NAVAIR’s mentorship program manager. “iMentor has the unique potential to connect mentors and mentees from all across the Navy.”
The fair, with a theme of “It's a New Year — Jumpstart Your Career. Find a Mentor, be a Mentor,” tied into NAVAIR's 2013 overarching mentoring focus: “Mentoring to Motivate.” The event was sponsored by NAVAIR’s National Mentoring Team, Women’s Advisory Group, Federally Employed Women and the Mentoring Externally Directed Team.