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Deborah Frett

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Mentoring: Giving Back to Those Women Who Have Given So Much

Posted: 01/24/2012 12:49 pm

You aced the holiday dinner, picked out the perfect presents, rung in the New Year with style, and started working on those resolutions. By now, you've got that gym routine down and even shed a few holiday pounds. You dusted off the resume, reached out to your networks and updated the LinkedIn profile. Check, check, and done. Yet you still feel like something is missing.

January is often the month when we take stock of our lives and realize that among our many goals and accomplishments, giving back sometimes takes a back seat. January is also National Mentoring Month, and for a decade now, it has been highlighting mentoring as one of the most personally rewarding ways to give back. This year, Business and Professional Women's (BPW) Foundation is taking the power of mentoring and focusing it on those women who have given their lives and their loves to protect our freedom: women veterans and military wives. BPW Foundation has deployed Joining Forces for Women Veterans and Military Spouses (JFWVMS) Mentoring Plus®, a program dedicated to helping women veterans and military spouses connect with working women mentors and subject matter experts (SMEs) to receive support and guidance, career development, and ultimately, to obtain meaningful employment.

Beginning in 2005, BPW Foundation made a commitment to better understand the employment transition of women veterans. We realized that every day, women in the military proudly serve our country, but when they return home they are faced with different challenges and often do not receive the recognition, benefits, or services they have earned. Our research highlighted translation and portability of skills as major obstacles and underscored an overwhelming gap in career and employment support among the growing population of military women upon their return to civilian life. Armed with this learning, BPW Foundation initiated studies and engaged private and public sector partners to outline employment access strategies, culminating in October 2010 with the inaugural Joining Forces for Women Veterans National Summit. More than 80 corporate, community and public sector leaders, including high-level White House and Administration officials, joined with women veterans to discuss key reintegration issues.

BPW Foundation's Joining Forces for Women Veterans and Military Spouses Mentoring Plus® was conceived and developed following this conference to address the critical ongoing need for informed, committed mentors to position and assist women veterans and military spouses as they search for new employment, hone their career goals, and package their military skills and experience to gain access to civilian jobs. First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden acknowledged this "mentorship gap" when they recognized BPW Foundation's mentoring initiative as part of the White House's national Joining Forces effort.

We chose to officially launch this landmark program during National Mentoring Month 2012, as it builds upon the research and experience of effective mentoring programs that have successfully impacted the lives of so many. JFWVMS Mentoring Plus is focusing on helping thousands of women veterans and military wives by connecting them with volunteer working women mentors over a sustained period of time. Veteran and civilian mentors of all ages across the country will provide insight, advice, and encouragement to help women veterans and military wives steer an individualized course of action in the civilian workplace.

The Mentoring Plus structure will enable mentors and mentees to work together to design and develop the goals and benchmarks for mentee employment plans. A cadre of online resources and subject matter experts will assist mentees in areas that affect workplace attainment, adjustment, retention, and/or supplier chain participation for small businesses. With this grassroots capacity to guide women veterans in their job searches and career development, we will initially pair 10,000 mentees with mentors. Ultimately, we will engage partners toward a widening target of 100,000 mentoring relationships, recognizing that more than 150,000 women are projected to leave the military over the next five years and join the more than 1.8 million existing women veterans who have proudly served our nation.

So as you take stock of your life and lay out your goals and resolutions, resolve to give back to these women who have given so much for your freedom and way of life. Being a mentor for women veterans and military spouses is a great way to give back and pay it forward. Recent polling shows that mentors not only find great reward in helping others succeed, they also discovered that they improve their own leadership skills, expand their own networks, and surprisingly keep more current with industry trends. BPW Foundation can help you become a mentor and invest in America's "sheroes." To join Mentoring Plus, please visit www.bpwfoundation.org.

 

Follow Deborah Frett on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BPW_CEO

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