Your next career breakthrough is waiting for you in the Coast Guard Mentoring Program. If you’re looking to connect with colleagues who can help you take your career to the next level, there are now 2,500 participants within the program, more connections than ever. Marking its first year as a workforce resource, the program has had a positive impact on countless members across the service.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Brooke Gould signed up for the Coast Guard Mentoring Program in August 2021. A new reservist at the time, she was mulling next steps and figured an outside opinion couldn’t hurt.
Today, Gould, a yeoman, is serving an active duty assignment as the Medical Entrance Processing System (MEPS) liaison in San Diego. She’s also on track to advance to E- 5, an outcome she attributes to the guidance she received from her mentor, Chief Petty Officer Ryan Huffman, a machinery technician who was recently honored as Reservist Enlisted Person of the Year.
“Ryan showed me how to locate opportunities, fill out paperwork, and do everything I needed to do to get the active duty assignment I wanted,” she said. “The best thing about the program is you feel like you’re talking to a friend, not going to someone in your chain of command, which can be intimidating.”
Huffman says he was happy to help. “I had mentors who guided me through my career,” he said. “As a reservist you’re so busy, there’s little time for personal growth. And with Brooke being a brand new YN3, there weren’t many people in her area that she could reach out to.”
Gould’s is just one of the success stories to come out of the Mentoring Program, which the service launched in April 2021. The popular career development initiative exceeded enrollment expectations, and continues to grow in popularity as members discover how easy it is to connect via the mobile app. notes Carl Boehmer, Mentoring Program manager
“The past 15 months have been about removing barriers and connecting Coast Guard men and women anywhere in the world, “Boehmer said. “Two of the things I’m most proud of are the many success stories, like Brooke’s, resulting from connections made through the program and the creation of over 160 peer-lead communities.”
Through these communities, people are collaborating, sharing resources, and networking with others who share their interests. There are communities supporting all the affinity groups, enlisted ratings, officer specialties, and more. A few of the most active communities include the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI), which has used the platform to host virtual events and host discussions, and the civilian centric leader development communities.
So, what to expect as the program continues into its second year?
The short answer is more. More members signing up to advance their careers, more leaders and communities participating and giving back, and more ways to participate. In her Commandant’s Intent, Adm. Linda Fagan talks about transforming the workforce. Mentorship aligns closely with one of her priorities in this area: to revolutionize talent management and create opportunities for advancement.
Boehmer says the focus will be on creating more communities, such as the Rotational Assignment Program for Civilians (RAP-C) and working to ensure all communities are active and dynamic resources for their members.
It’s also going to get easier for members to connect. The Mentoring Program is streamlining the enrollment process to make it easier for participants to find communities that interest them and easier to sign up for multiple mentoring options.
New “matching” algorithms are being created to connect enrollees with communities based on their profiles, notes Petty Officer First Class Tyler Mleczko, a boatswain's mate and mentoring program analyst. Instead of having to scroll through a list of communities, which is what currently happens, a list of suggested communities will auto populate from which a user can choose.
“It’s very similar to ‘suggested for you’ that you see whenever you shop online,” Mleczko said. “This will be a game changer for the program.”
The Mentoring Program team is available for in person and virtual unit trainings to educate the workforce about how mentoring can help them meet their goals - whether professional or personal. Email Mleczko to request a training.
Gould was matched instantaneously, and connected with her mentor within days. She chose Huffman for both his impressive background and location. Since he lived three hours away, she figured it would be easier for them to meet in person. But, she was still excited to get the notes and messages from people on the East Coast who wanted to help her.
You can enroll in the Mentoring Program any time here. After establishing a profile, you’ll receive mentoring suggestions based on your profile and career needs. You can send a message to the suggested connections and join as many communities as you would like.
“Ultimately, it doesn’t hurt to create a profile,” Gould said. “You never know what kind of messages might pop up. There are a bunch of areas like Instagram and Facebook where people find connections, but it seems like the best and most current resources for the Coast Guard are here. I was very new, so I was open to hearing how people at the Coast Guard had navigated their careers.”
She and Huffman set up a schedule where they would meet or talk once a week. After she started her new position in January, they continued their meetings. One time, Huffman invited other Coast Guard members along, including a female reservist looking to get an active duty assignment. To Gould the fact that she was able to pay-it-forward and offer guidance was a clear sign her mentorship had been worthwhile.
“She was where I was when I started,” Gould said. “So, I’ve been helping her to become a MEPS liaison at the other location.”
Huffman was glad he could connect them. “Brooke and I got along great,” he said. “But I felt if I could introduce her to other peers, this would help her grow more quickly.”