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Sharing, Mentoring and the Changing World of Work

September 15, 2011
By Jennifer Miller

"Let's do lunch?" is a phrase many mock; others use it as much as possible to gain invaluable insight from personal experiences and get feedback about present actions and future aspirations. As an intern, I have a limited perspective of the Department of Defense and rely heavily on the guidance of others when contemplating different career ideas, experience opportunities and developmental paths or programs to pursue. I sincerely appreciate the time, experience, and resources which are shared to develop my knowledge, skills, and abilities. The mentoring process is an ongoing give-and-take relationship where participants share much more than a meal; the primary knowledge that's available is calorie-free richness, at that! The generosity of a mentor's time coupled with a mentee's attention is a perfect demonstration of organic sharing. Among the benefits of that kind of sharing are the amount of personal detail conveyed and off-the-record insights. During these exchanges it is crucial to remain respectful, receptive and resourceful to adequately nurture and enhance the resulting relationship. A few great places to start include: - The SAF/FM Mentoring Community of Practice (https://afkm.wpafb.af.mil/community/views/home.aspx?Filter=OO-FM-PA-01), - The Palace Acquire Professional Forum (https://afkm.wpafb.af.mil/community/views/home.aspx?Filter=OO-FM-PA-01), - and your local professional associations including your local AFCEA Chapter. Some of the things I've seen at work in my current situation include my digital continuity book. This tool allows me to keep precise notes and get feedback in one place, with two advantages: First, I've communicated a value for another person's time and they recognized my genuine efforts. Second, both parties will not spend time creating a duplication of the same lesson because my digital continuity book is easily shared among a limitless number of seekers. From this practice, I demonstrate a value for minimizing waste, advocacy for education of the masses, and support of the effort for a paperless Air Force. We should not take one-size-fits-all approach to on-the-job training, either. Sometimes the relationship is less formal. When transitioning to Maxwell AFB, I was assigned a sponsor who has turned out to be a wonderful friend. We began with simple tips about the area, which greatly reduced the stress surrounding relocation. Now we are frequently working together sharing resources, networks, and maintaining our professional competition levels. Mentoring programs and on-the-job training are just two points of a successful knowledge sharing system, however. The most subjective, and possibly the most important, is the ability within these systems to express appreciation. Senior leaders like Major General Flowers frequently cite the power a simple 'Thank you" holds. Merely saying friendly phrases is not enough though; he allows his sincerity to radiate with the recipient(s) of his message. Work culture is changing to embrace this mindset, as well. A growing trend is seeing work areas designed in open circular patterns rather than in cubicles, which confine workers physically and mentally. Another work culture change that involves sharing is the 360 degree appraisal process, where all involved are able to share those valuable traits, needs improvement areas, and points the entire team of identifiers will be able to assist with during positive progression. These few changes can empower those around you regardless of rank and encouraging a collaborative or shared environment. Ms. Jennifer Miller is a 2nd year Financial Management Specialist, Palace Acquire Federal Career Intern of the United States Air Force at Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, AL.

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