When Aurora first launched their internship program in 2010, it was important to our leadership to design an internship specifically for veterans to transition into the workforce. Not only did student veterans need to receive on-the-job-training, but also needed the "soft skills" (people skills, time management, work-life balance, etc.) to succeed in the workforce. As the internship program took shape, the question remained of how Aurora student veterans would receive those "soft skills" throughout their internship. The answer became simple: a mentor.
But not just any mentor. The gentleman who stepped up to the plate was none other than Reggie Williams, a retired USA Command Sergeant Major and Senior Vice President of SNVC. He has personally taken time to meet with each Aurora intern as they transition, whether personally meeting for lunch or Skyp'ing over lunch breaks. He reviews Steven Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" with them, and helps answer their questions with tips and personal experience of his own.
While he's not volunteering time with Aurora or working with SNVC, he's serving at his local church, working with homeless in Loudoun County, or spending time with his family. He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to meet with us and share some insight about mentorship. Thank you, Reggie, for all you do!
- Why is it important that veterans be mentored?
Simple things that seem easy or straightforward to us may appear a complete mystery to a veteran because of the lack of exposure. Whether going into the civilian workforce or deciding to continue your studies in academics, mentoring transitional veterans will show them there is someone who cares and can serve as an outreach. Mentors can provide mentees with an experienced friend who is there to help in any number of situations. I believe and perhaps research confirms what we know anecdotally or intuitively — mentoring works.
- How has your past military/civilian experience equipped you to pour into the lives of others?
In the military there is a call to duty which is simply “selfless service.” That service and concern for the needs of others than with over one’s own is very important in serving and impacting other lives. Mentoring makes you feel in your heart that you can make a difference and because of that, perhaps the world can be a better place and you, a better person.
- What is the main thing in which every veteran seems to seek guidance?
Outside of PTSD and coping with that disorder, I believe they seek guidance on continuity of pay and what that may mean (job, school, etc.), employment assistance, and effect of a career change.
- What is “mentorship,” in your view? Is it strictly professional, or are you personally involved in people’s lives as well?
I believe mentoring is supporting and encouraging people to manage their own learning in order for them to maximize potential and develop skills. In many ways, it is a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn. The Army Mentorship Program, for example, promotes learning and development, which I think is applicable to any civilian mentorship program.
- Last but not least, what is the most rewarding part of being a mentor?
Hearing those who I mentor say “Thank You, because you have been helpful."