The fact is that I don't like the Navy Mentorship Program. There, I said it. Kind of feels better getting it off my chest.
Here's why: The Navy essentially requires everyone to have a mentor. That in itself isn't too bad, but when an organization requires something, it usually waters the program down a great deal. Take, for example, the Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist (ESWS) pin. Once upon a time, it wasn't mandatory, and the standards were high. They were so high that people would retire without them and people had to work hard…even sacrifice…to get it. That's not the case anymore. Now it's mandatory and it carries such a bad reputation that it has garnered a name like” freeswass” since we usually call it “e-swass.” I used to say that you could go to the Chief Petty Officer's Mess door and just knock three times. That was the cue that you needed your ESWS pin and they'd give it to you. It's horrible.
That's the problem the Navy is facing with the mentorship program. When it is required, or mandatory, then it loses its luster. My first mentors taught me so much, and the unofficial mentor I had as a PO1 was outstanding, but any of my required mentors have just been so-so. Why? I didn't trust them, didn't relate to them, and didn't particularly care what they thought. They probably didn't care much for me either. It's horrible on all accounts.
If the Navy wants to support mentoring then it should get rid of the mandatory requirement and go back to the way it used to be. If you want one, you’ll get one, or one will get you.
Having said that, there are definitely ways to make it work within the current system. Several people are simply going to get a mentor, or be mentored, as a paperwork drill. For those of us who refuse to be bound by that system, we will work through this program, but actually do the mentoring. We meet with our protégés, counsel them on choices they are making, and move them as best we can to the place they need to be. Basically those of us who do it right do it the way we were taught long ago by real mentors.