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Excel with a Mentor program assists transitioning service members

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. --

Excel with a Mentor is a voluntary program that familiarizes transitioning service members with the civilian corporate setting to gain realistic career perspectives.

The program is part of the newly founded non-profit, Boots and Suits United, Inc., which links service members separating or retiring from the military with civilian mentors experienced in the corporate workforce of the Omaha metro area.

Excel with a Mentor was started more than four years ago by two retired U.S. Air Force first sergeants, Barry Wilkinson and Ralph Maldonado, Boots and Suits United Inc. president and vice president respectively.

“We were finding that people were getting out of the military with knowledge and skills they didn’t know how to apply,” Wilkinson said. “One of the most important things to do in the job search is networking, finding the right job has always been who you know, not just what you know.”

Wilkinson added that the program focuses on helping people to make those connections, doing assessments on the participants and connecting them with the right mentors.

Through Excel with a Mentor there are numerous opportunities to receive mentoring from entry level to executive management professionals. The mentors do not take on the responsibility of finding employment for the mentee, but they do help them understand how to navigate the corporate world.

“The mentoring program gives them the opportunity to meet some of these leaders in the corporate world downtown that may have never been associated with the military, and offer a different perspective on what they can do, how far they can go, what education and training they need in the civilian workforce,” Wilkinson said. “The companies’ downtown are finding the military people more than adequate with their skills, education and their ability and attitude.”

Approximately 350-400 have participated in the program. There are normally about 50 people actively being mentored at any given time.

“We do individual assessments on them to determine what they want to do, when they are separating, what skills and education they have and to know them as a person,” Wilkinson said. “From there we can figure out which mentor will benefit them the most.”

Either party can request a different mentor or mentee if he or she feels the relationship doesn’t work or is uncomfortable for any reason. The relationship can last as long as needed on a case by case basis.

 “We were finding that many retirees were underemployed, people who were separating from the military couldn’t find a decent job,” Wilkinson said. “On average, most retirees switch jobs three times in the first five years after separating because they’ve never found out what they wanted to do and they may have had a difficult time matching their skills to the civilian workforce.”

Under the mentoring program, Wilkinson said he was finding people are staying in the positions longer because they are finding better jobs the first time out.

Any transitioning service members from Offutt of all ranks and services can request a mentor. Whether it’s a junior enlisted looking to grow from an entry-level position or a long term service member looking to use their executive skills to take on a new challenge.  

 “The Excel with a Mentor doesn’t cost anyone anything but their time and their willingness to learn more about themselves and the corporate world to find a better job,” Wilkinson said.    

In addition to using the program Wilkinson encourages everyone to attend the Transition Assistance Program’s Transition Goals, Plans, Success seminar and utilize the services of the Airman & Family Readiness. Excel with a Mentor is a supplement to their services and not a replacement.

Those interested in the program can call 402-212-3505 for more information or sign up for Excel with a Mentor on their website www.bootsandsuitsunited.org.  

The program also has free business suits available to those in the transition process.