Grasp opportunities to sponge from mentors

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFRC) -- Do you ever wonder why some people seem to advance in their careers faster than others? Hmmm. Are they better at doing their primary job than the next guy? Not really. Do you suppose somebody might be helping them advance in their career? It's possible. Although you could advance in your career without the help of others, it could be a very rough road to take and certainly not without making serious mistakes along the way. 

As a senior enlisted member, I don't believe I could have reached this milestone in my career if it was just about doing my job and completing all the Air Force requirements, such as Career Development Course and Professional Military Education. Not to undermine the importance of CDCs and PMEs; I gained a lot of important knowledge from those courses, but, if I didn't surround myself with people having a greater knowledge and different experiences, career progression would have been painfully hard, and perhaps causing me to make bad decisions. 

The Official Air Force Mentoring Program did not exist until 1997, but my unofficial Air Force mentoring started when I joined the Air Force in 1982. My mentors had different career fields, career experiences, ranks, cultural backgrounds, leadership styles, and a lot of different other things, and I learned from them all. The unofficial mentoring session may have lasted from five minutes to several hours. But regardless how long it lasted, I was like a sponge absorbing it all, and I never stopped. Understanding their experience and knowledge helped me make better decisions throughout my career. I credit every one of them for getting me to where I am today. If I stumbled along the way, it was because I didn't pay attention to their wisdom. 

The 302nd Airlift Wing has an incredibly talented work force with each person having unique skills to offer. I recommend to each and every enlisted member in this wing to have a collection of mentors at your reach - someone to help you improve your job skills, leadership skills, communication skills, or anything you may have a weakness in. Through your collection of mentors you should eventually understand the "bigger picture" so that you make better decisions while moving into leadership roles. Be sure not to limit yourself to a small number of mentors who could limit your resources for career growth. With our constant changing Air Force, utilizing only one person's experience may not provide you the best resource for your career advancement. 

As you rise through the rank, you too must become a mentor for others. Although you may not know it, you may already be a mentor to someone. Someone is watching you, listening to your every word, and learning. So, make yourself available more and share the best of you. 

Now that I'm a chief do I stop learning? No. Do I stop having mentors in my reach? No. I still continue to learn and I'll always have mentors in my reach. I learn from junior enlisted as much as I learn from my seniors. There are a lot of talented and educated enlisted members in my unit who have an enormous amount of knowledge from their past military and civilian careers. Some are working mandays with various active duty organizations. Learning from them helps me understand an even broader picture, and improve on my weaknesses. With the constant change in the Air Force today, it helps to have a collection of mentors throughout your entire career. It's the only way to stay ahead of the game. 

Be the sponge and learn something new everyday.