This article about ACP’s Active Duty Military Spouse Mentoring Program was written by Millie Donnelly, Operations Associate, ACP
On November 3rd 2018, ACP launched its Active Duty Military Spouse Mentoring Program thanks to the generous funding of our partner companies Johnson & Johnson and PepsiCo. ACP’s Active Duty Military Spouse Mentoring Program, which builds on the success of ACP’s robust Veteran Mentoring Program, offers year-long, customized mentorships to the spouses of active-duty service members, as well as to the spouses of those post 9/11 veterans who were seriously wounded and Gold Star spouses. To date, more than 400 spouses have completed our program, with more than 350 spouses being currently mentored.
The Military Spouse community is one defined by grit and heart; it is these qualities that make military spouses perfect candidates for mentorship, as they seek to build their careers and enhance their professional development while also juggling frequent moves and other responsibilities on the homefront. Statistically speaking, military spouses as a group are some of the most overqualified and underemployed candidates that are job-searching today. A survey conducted by Blue Star Families in 2019 put the unemployment rate for Military Spouses at 24%, but that statistic does not account for the number of men and women who are employed in jobs that they are overqualified for.
Military spouses often face challenges in gaining meaningful employment in part due to their status as a spouse, or because they have to get recertified (nurses, pharmacists, teachers) for their position every time they move to a new state. The Mentors who sign up to be a part of our Active Duty Spouse Mentoring Program are familiar with these particular challenges, as some are military spouses themselves. One such Mentor is Renee Bostick, who was a military spouse for 38 years while her husband and ACP Board Member Lt. General (Ret.) Tom Bostick, served in the U.S. Army.
Renee’s expertise as a Mentor, the questions she asks and the advice she gives have been greatly informed by her own experiences as a long-time active duty military spouse. A classroom teacher by trade, Renee received numerous letters of rejection from positions she was qualified for and dealt with the stigma that comes with having gaps on her résumé. If these situations sound all too familiar, you are not alone. The struggle to find and build a meaningful career has often been exactly that––a struggle––for military spouses. Renee worked twice if not three times as hard as other eligible candidates and eventually moved from teaching in classrooms to becoming an Assistant Principal and eventually a Principal.
When asked if she herself might have benefited from a program such as the one ACP offers, Renee reflected on the relationships she formed with the wives of some of the commanders her husband served alongside. The value of their presence served to remind Renee and other spouses on base that they were part of something together, which is actually how the wider Military Spouse community operates today and how the Mentor/Protégé relationship is designed to operate.
Renee now owns her own executive and leadership coaching business and has thus far mentored two spouses of active duty service members. Having experience as a coach is beneficial in mentoring anyone Renee says, but when it comes to mentoring military spouses it is especially valuable. As a coach, her role is to ask questions of her Protégé that eventually lead them to their own conclusions, and as a military spouse she is familiar with the sort of questions that need to be asked.
Above all, when asked what piece of advice she would give to any military spouse, Renee said that it would be to persevere. “Despite anything that may come your way, keep moving forward. It’s like the First Infantry Division says, ‘No mission too difficult, no sacrifice too great. Duty first.’ As a military spouse, you have to learn to control how you respond to situations and how to move forward. And you have to learn to let go of the uncontrollable.” Renee is only one of hundreds of Mentors in the program who have made the time to understand and address the specific needs of military spouses in regards to career development.
ACP’s spouse Mentors not only have years of experience in their respective fields, but they have an understanding of how goal-setting and career exploration work differently for spouses. Rose Lanard, formerly Chief Diversity Officer at S&P Global and founder of S&P Global’s employee mentoring program, is one such Mentor. Rose joined the program in 2016, and over the years worked with 3 different veteran Protégés each with whom she established a meaningful connection.
Rose chose to be a Mentor in the Active Duty Military Spouse Program in 2018, after ACP contacted her asking if she would be interested in expanding her mentoring repertoire. Of course, being deeply passionate about mentoring others, she anticipated that spouses might face unique challenges as they seek career opportunities and was happy to support ACP’s program expansion.
When asked how ACP’s Veteran Mentoring Program differs from the Active Duty Spouse Mentoring Program, Rose replied, “The value spouses gain is really no different than what military personnel gain—a true partnership with a seasoned business leader, a confidante and hopefully, a long-time friend. My spouse Protégés have been ambitious, focused and dedicated to learning about career paths, overcoming obstacles and navigating organizational waters.” Every ACP Mentorship, whether it be with a veteran or an active duty spouse, provides a Protégé with plenty of opportunity to ask questions, set goals and work towards the career aspirations they have always held.
When asked what piece of advice or wisdom about ACP Rose would want the military spouse community to be aware of, Rose said, “ACP is an invaluable partner to military spouses. Just as I feel very much part of the ACP family, I know military Protégés feel similarly. This same level of personalized attention, and commitment to career success that Veterans receive is wholeheartedly extended to military spouses.”
Both Renee and Rose have been invaluable Mentors in the ACP program for the past two years, and they are shining examples of the kinds of talented, dynamic and dedicated Mentors who are available to work with spouses. The ACP team is grateful to both of them for their kind words, thoughtful guidance and time spent making this program what it is. If you are interested in seeing what doors a mentor like Renee or Rose can help you open, ACP invites you to apply today by visiting www.acp-usa.org. An ACP Operations Associate will reach out to you within 24 hours of submitting your application with the next steps. We are looking forward to working with you!