How can we improve professional mentorship for low-density military occupational specialties – particularly for military communicators?
Low density, specialty military occupations, such as military communicators typically find themselves working in one of two environments. The first is Signal specific unit – such as a Signal Battalion or Brigade, a Cyber unit, or perhaps an agency such as DISA. These units bring their own organizational culture – one that is framed by various generations of Signal experience. The wealth of professional communications knowledge inherent in these formations affords a fertile environment for senior officers and NCOs to mentor, teach, and coach their junior teammates.
When military communicators find themselves outside of Signal specific units they may have fewer opportunities to interact with other military communicators – particularly senior leaders. While being embedded within a community in which one is providing direct combat support provides an irreplaceable level of awareness of the unique requirements and demands for these mission sets– it can also lead to a sense of isolation from the broader community of military communicators.
In the civilian world, access to mentoring has important benefits – people with mentors earn more, are more frequently promoted, report greater job satisfaction, and are more committed to their organizations than those without mentors (Murrell, Crosby, Ely, 1999). These same benefits apply in the military as well. Therefore, as a community of military communicators – how can we offer mentorship to those working outside of Signal specific units? The following are a few ideas:
- First, establishing a credible organization of communicator mentors – with individual sponsors committed to participating as positive role models – would provide a starting point for those motivated to seek out mentorship. Ideally, chapters could spread across installations – so that as communicators move throughout their careers they could continue to have access to this group of mentors. Regular functions – where new members to our ranks could interact with other communicators from outside their unit – would help foster a broader sense of community.
- Second, providing access to online forums for communicators, with opportunities for real-time interaction with mentors and coaches, would help expand the network of support. Social media sites and services can and should be leveraged to bring military communicators together.
- Third, establishing a digital library with archived content for military communicators to view – similar to the efforts of the Ted Talks and the Khan Academy – would allow communicators less comfortable with seeking a formal mentorship – to still have access to helpful content and advice.
- Finally, if we all took the time to personally offer our support and help as mentors to others within our community, we could demonstrate our personal commitment to serving others. This may in turn start a grass-roots wild fire.
These initiatives will take time to develop – but the ability to connect has never been easier. If not now, when? If not us, who?
As always – the views in this piece are mine alone and do not represent the U.S. government, Department of Defense, United States Army, or any other organization with which I have had any association.
And – if you are interested in collaborating on this topic please let us know and we’ll get you on our distro.
Murrell, A. J., Crosby, F.J., and Ely, R.J. (1999). Mentoring Dilemmas: Developmental Relationships Within Multicultural Organizations. New York, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.