The Mentoring Continuum Construct provides an organization with a multi-faceted approach to mentoring that will give enterprises/communities flexibility in its implementation, to best fit their particular needs. Successful mentoring programs should combine elements of five distinct mentoring “circles”:
Chain of Command. This mentoring circle is designed to assist Sailors in achieving their professional goals and to positively influence their desire to remain on active duty or transition to the Navy Reserve. Much of the chain of command mentoring is mandatory and guided by existing instructions and directives. For example, career development boards, the command sponsor program, and command indoctrination programs, are the foundation of chain of command mentoring. These programs are outlined in reference (a). Commanders shall ensure use of these career development tools is maximized at their commands. Additionally, chain of command mentoring opportunities arise during normal operations such as unit training, deployments, or other command events. A key component of chain of command mentoring is ensuring that from the bottom up, the Navy is “brilliant on the basics.”
Enterprise/Community. This mentoring circle requires tracking individual careers of the members of an enterprise/ community to ensure career milestones are met. Individual professional requirements should be clearly articulated and performance measured. Metrics must be in place to ensure members are progressing as expected. Additionally, informal enterprise/ community mentoring programs are highly encouraged; for example, the “Leading Edge” online forum for female aviators. Discussion of enterprise/community mentoring programs is appropriate during community self assessments with CNO.
Professional Associations/Affinity Groups. These associations connect mentors and protégés of similar interests, backgrounds, cultures, or fields to support each other personally and professionally. Professional associations meet periodically to share best practices and to afford junior personnel access to senior members who have succeeded in their careers. These meetings provide exceptional forums for career development guidance on both an individual and group level. Commanders should make every effort to support their Sailors’ or employees’ participation with these groups. Wardrooms and chiefs’ messes play a similar role to more formal professional associations. Commanders should also help facilitate employee resource groups, family readiness groups, and other groups that have personal and/or professional development implications. In addition to military-focused groups, many federal and civilian-sponsored professional associations exist. Membership and participation in these associations further develops individuals personally and professionally.
One-on-One. These are voluntary mentoring relationships of a professional nature. One-on-one mentoring happens when one person reaches out to another and a career-aiding relationship develops. To establish a one-on-one mentoring relationship, often mentors and protégés will meet for a finite period to accomplish agreed-upon objectives that are designed to assist the protégé in accomplishing a particular goal (for example, command acclimation or finishing a training program or qualification). The mentorship may end when the initial goal is achieved, or a longer-term relationship may result with new career objectives. These relationships can be established between peers or near-peers, allowing individuals with similar experiences and backgrounds to share successes, challenges, and lessons-learned with individuals newer to the command, team, or career path. They may also develop between senior and junior members of an organization, and are often a means by which junior personnel can seek direction, support, and motivation to achieve the next level.
Social Networking. Social networking refers both to the relationship-building that occurs in social and non-official situations as well as to types of technology that facilitate relationship-building leveraging the Internet. Mentoring that occurs as a result of social networking may be between two individuals or within a group. Connections may be established through various activities. Mentors can be found in casual settings, through purposeful introductions by a shared acquaintance, or through self-introduction. Virtual communities are a means by which individuals can connect with others that may share their background and are seeking to achieve similar goals.