The Intelligence and National Security Alliance kept the conversation going in their The New IC: Empowering Women & Engaging Men program today with a panel moderated by our very own ClearanceJobs Director of Content and PR, Lindy Kyzer. Mentoring is a critical component to ensuring that the right talent continues to play a role in national security.
The Path to National Security is Different for Everyone
Sometimes it’s about getting your start in national security. Everyone has a different story, and it’s important to enable the next generation of female leaders. While some women enter the world of national security through military service, like Col. Carolyn Washington (Ret.) co-chair of Defense and Intelligence Working Groups, WCAPS; others like Cadie Naquin, co-founder and chief strategy Officer of The Command Purpose Foundation, said that although her interest in national security was somewhat by accident, she did have a perspective shift in college that was a game changer for her.
Panelists emphasized you don’t need to start out knowing what work you want to do in the field in order to go after it. It’s all about connecting with the right people along the way and finding your purpose – regardless of gender or ethnicity.
Lauren Bean Buitta, founder and CEO of Girl Security explained that her own personal hurdles of how to advance in national security really was the impetus behind forming Girl Security. And Lindsay Rodman, executive director at The Leadership Council for Women in National Security said that she always wanted to work in national security, so her grad school choices and Marine Corp experience helped set her current path forward.
With a diversity of career options available, if you have a passion for something, the government has a place for you. So, the resounding theme was to go after those passions, and find people along the way to help you grow.
Mentorship – The Big Ask
A key piece in mentoring is understanding what you are seeking from a mentor. However, asking someone to be your mentor can be a bit awkward. In contrast, without clear expectations, it can take a lot of time to define. But the different mentoring organizations available can go a long way in removing some of the socially awkward moments, as well as, alleviate some of the time spent defining the relationship.
Buitta shared, “It may be scary, but the benefit of an organization like Girl Security is that they define the relationship terms for you.”
Sometimes, what people want is really a champion for them personally. However, it’s important to remember that a mentoring relationship is a different tool in your career. The way to get a champion is to simply do excellent work that can get you recognized or hired at your next job. In mentoring relationships, it’s about identifying different voices who can speak into achieving your personal goals. And mentoring relationships really depend on what you’re trying to achieve. Sometimes, sharing your own personal experience with someone just starting out in their career can help solidify your own future career plans, so don’t ignore nontraditional mentoring models.
Washington shared that she had people who were interested in her success along the way, but she never had that one person helping her through the entire course of her career journey. However, she shared that, “Having people that I could talk to and trust was very helpful.” So, surround yourself with trustworthy people who can speak into your career – even if you’re having trouble finding that one mentor to speak into your career.
Get the Conversation Going
The key piece in the overall process is communication. Have your eyes and ears open for other women, and you will be surprised at all the different relationships that can develop over time that can offer peer-to-peer mentoring and collaboration.
“No matter how amazing our mentors are, their advice is often grounded in their own perspectives,” said Naquin. “It’s okay to take a different path” because you are the one making the decision. You have to determine what you actually care about, and mentorship helps identify steps and goals. But you are the one who sets the purpose, and you need to ask yourself some of the same questions that you ask members.
And motivation is a key piece in the relationship. Not everyone is a good fit with each other. Time is limited, so it’s important to know who is actually ready to be mentored. Rodman encouraged the listeners to start mentoring in their own organization. She said, “wherever you are in an organization, those are the best people to connect with…as opposed to a blasted message on Twitter.”
The remote environment can be challenging with relationships and connectivity, so it takes a little more intentionality. But as things shift back to what we knew before, it’s important to mentor others and reach out for others to mentor you.
Lightening Round on Mentoring
Each panelist shared their last words of wisdom before the hour quickly came to a close. It’s clear that mentoring plays different roles in every career. The only common mantra is that mentoring is key to everyone.
- “Find out who you are and what makes you tick…know who you are,” said Washington.
- Buitta shared, “If you’re in a position where you can cultivate a culture of mentorship, it can be extremely rewarding.”
- “Create an environment that allows people to be a messy, unpolished version of themselves. The mentors I really cherish are the ones I can go to when I’m struggling,” said Naquin.
- And Rodman closed the session out with saying, “Don’t be shy. Women in particular can be apprehensive about reaching out…there’s an online dating component but risk is low…just reach out.”