One mentoring session can change a career

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Shirley Jones
  • 39th Mission Support Group chief
Airman First Class Shirley Dixon arrived at her first duty station, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, bright-eyed and eagerly anticipating the beginning of her Air Force career. She knew if she came to work on time and performed well, she would have a successful career. During her first year, she did just that.

Occasionally, she volunteered around the community but competing for quarterly awards was not her "cup of tea" that's not why she joined the Air Force. At the end of her first evaluation period, Airmen Dixon was surprised to find out she did not earn the coveted "fire wall five" on her enlisted performance report. To make matters worse, her supervisor told her she almost received an overall four rating. Her supervisor realized she was headed in the wrong direction and in order to help Airman Dixon achieve her goal of a successful career, she decided to intervene. This enlisted performance report set the stage for a mentoring session that made a career-influencing impact.

A review of Air Force Instruction 36-2618, The Enlisted Force Structure, revealed the Air Force expects the junior enlisted tier to prepare for increased responsibilities. This expectation continued into the noncommissioned officer tier and as a senior NCO, it serves as the foundation for developing strong leaders.

One way to prepare for increased responsibility is to step out of your comfort zone by taking on leadership roles in professional and private organizations. While there can be only one president, vice-president, secretary or treasurer, most organizations perform community service, fundraising activities and organize squadron and/or wing ceremonies. These are great opportunities to promote personal and professional growth throughout the year.

Education is another form of professional development and a way to prepare for new challenges. Whether it is professional military education, seminars or college courses, the combination of education and a high degree of proficiency in all duties reaps endless benefits for the individual and the Air Force.

Fast forward 20 years and three Air Force Specialty Codes later, Chief Master Sgt. Shirley Jones shares the mentoring session she received as an Airman First Class with audiences of all ranks. It is important to understand that promotion or career success is not defined as just getting by, but is reflective of many accomplishments and sustained performance over the course of time.