In Homer’s Odyssey, the hero Odysseus leaves behind a wife and a son, Telemachus. To guide Telemachus while his father completes his epic voyage home, Athena–goddess of wisdom–arrives in disguise as a family friend named Mentor.
Today, most military spouses know what it’s like to navigate uncertainty in the absence of a loved one. While everyone is lucky enough to get help from the goddess of wisdom, nearly everyone could use a mentor.
Why the Military Spouse Community Needs Mentorship
In the military spouse world, the concept of mentorship comes up frequently. Usually, that means senior spouses shepherding more junior spouses through deployments or the impact on their family of the service member’s increasing responsibility.
Mentorship is also vital to military spouse entrepreneurs and professionals. Like almost every aspect of military life, maintaining a career or running a business as a military spouse comes with additional challenges.
Accordingly, not only should milspouse entrepreneurs and professionals seek out mentors–if they have even a little bit of experience, they should be prepared to offer mentorship to others starting out.
This mentorship can be as informal as a helpful, supportive chat while watching the kids play at the playground, or as ceremonious as an email or handwritten note asking a fellow spouse to be a mentor.
Additionally, there are formal avenues available to military spouses to seek out mentors. Here are some that can help milspouse entrepreneurs build networks and their businesses while growing their confidence.
Military Spouse Mentorship Programs
Military Spouse eMentor Program
This mentorship program comes out of the Department of Defense’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP). This online mentorship program links spouses of varying professional experience levels, from up-and-comers (protégés) to experienced hands (mentors). Spouses can join the eMentor program from either side. eMentor also connects members with employers and career mentors from outside the military community.
Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network
The Military Spouse Professional Network plugs military spouses into established networks so they don’t have to go back to the drawing board every time they PCS. Joining MSPN allows spouses to access some 55 existing networks worldwide, as well as an online career advice resource. This online community allows spouses to advise and support each other from their hard-won experience.
American Corporate Partners (ACP) Mentoring Program
ACP’s Mentoring Program matches military spouses with a hand-selected mentor from a Fortune 500 company for one year. An ACP staff member talks with spouses to determine their career goals and experience to help determine the optimal match for their mentorship experience.
The Milspo Project
This one is by military spouses, for military spouses. Begun in 2014, The Milspo Project is an online and in-person community of milspouse entrepreneurs. Members grow their businesses through downloadable business development tools, workshops, and peer mentorship.
Community Over Competition
We’ve all heard the phrase “community over competition.” This phrase, popular in the entrepreneur community, also exemplifies the best of the military spouse community.
The challenges of military life make military spouses adaptive, flexible, and willing to help each other out. Cooperation and supportive relationships often make the difference when it comes to thriving as a military spouse.
When military spouses share with each other the lessons they’ve learned as entrepreneurs and family members of service members, they are doing more than simply networking. They are building a community and a safety net of likeminded individuals who understand where they’re coming from.
Think about who in your life could be a mentor–or who might be interested in your mentorship. Then, discern whether some of these more formal routes are right for you, or whether you’re fine with a simple networking call with someone in your community. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a potential mentor for a coffee or call–very often, people are happy to share their experiences and share their insight.
Military life can be hard–so can entrepreneurship. Mentorship can help spouses overcome difficulties and prepare them to face fresh obstacles with confidence. Whether you’re a novice who’s just starting out, in the trenches, or an experienced business owner, everyone has something to learn from each other. When a military spouse seeks out a mentor (or becomes a mentor themselves), they are building up something greater than the sum of its parts, something that will last: an intentional community of mutual support.