CDR Carl B. Forkner, Ph.D., USN(Ret)
This past week I had the pleasure of meeting a number of Veterans from every military service and many different career specialties. I also had the opportunity to speak with a number of companies that were hiring Veterans to fill meaningful positions in their companies with a prospect of career progression. This was at the Veterans Career Event held last Wednesday by BestCompaniesAZ and Career Connectors, held at the North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix, AZ.
Now, one would assume that making connections with other Veterans would be relatively easy at an event like this; in fact, it was. But even though I met many talented people at the event–both Veterans and companies who want to hire Veterans in career positions–I was particularly fortunate to get to know a young Veteran from about as far across the Phoenix metro area as it is possible to be. This articulate young Veteran comes from a family where one brother is an Air Force Veteran and another is a Marine; she is an Army Veteran. This remarkable young Veteran with a passion for helping other Veterans is Beth Ciaramello, who actively helps Veterans be able to gain relevant career skills through programs associated with federal vocational rehabilitation programs and then actively assists in career placement. As much as she does to help Veterans, she is a humble and amenable teammate who is pleasant and approachable–with a passion for helping her fellow Veterans.
Back to the Veterans event… It was by chance that Beth and I met–I was conversing with another Veteran who is a fellow volunteer with Career Connectors, Ted Robison, when Beth entered the event. We chatted for a few minutes about our backgrounds and what we did working with and for veterans, making it a point to schedule lunch this week to discuss more about our experiences and opportunities for collaboration. In the meantime, Denise Gredler, the CEO of BestCompaniesAZ, invited me to a roundtable discussion about sharing and developing best practices for recruiting, hiring, and retaining Veterans in the workplace. When I met with Beth for a lunch discussion on March 1st, I invited her to register for and attend the roundtable and share her service to Veterans and practices with which she has had success. It was a great conversation–Beth is a fantastic resource for Veterans anywhere in the United States–look her up on LinkedIn…
On to March 2nd… The roundtable event at the Phoenix Better Business Bureau (BBB) started promptly at 11:30 MST. The meeting showcased *what’s her name that led it* along with four panelists who have experience in working with recruiting, hiring, and retaining Veterans, including:
- Christine Gannon – President/CEO of Brightworks Consulting
- Amber Spiewak – Veterans Program Specialist at Charles Schwab
- Gay Meyer – Assistant VP of HR Operations at USAA
- Patrick Groome – Military/Veteran Recruiter at J.P. Morgan Chase
- Ruth Armendariz – Senior Recruiting Consultant with Wells Fargo’s Veterans Hiring Initiative
The discussions were quite relevant and interesting, drawing from programs being managed by these professionals, success stories with Veterans, and the challenges that they have encountered in helping Veterans–particularly in their transitions from military to civilian life and work. Some of the excellent initiatives discussed in the roundtable included:
- Charles Schwab‘s diversity inclusion and campus programs that provide a Veteran staff member as a mentor to incoming veterans, including a Schwab challenge coin for incoming Veterans that represents a bridge between their former and new careers.
- USAA‘s initiative for having 30% of new hires be Veterans–and a workforce of at least 25% Veterans overall by 2020. They also ensure that Veterans are represented in every interview panel so that a greater understanding may be gained when interviewing Veterans. They also have a “Vet Fit” program that helps match Veterans with the best fit for their career at USAA.
- Wells Fargo has a goal of hiring 20,000 Veterans by 2020, as well as building and sustaining career paths for them. Their Veterans Transition Internship program provides a roughly three-month program that helps Veterans make the transition from military to civilian careers and then matches them with the best fit for their Wells Fargo career. They also provide a Veteran Liaison who assists Veterans in their transition and developing their career. Of note, Wells Fargo has a translator available on their Veterans site to help put their military experience into civilian equivalent terms.
- J.P. Morgan Chase has two teams of dedicated Military/Veteran recruiters to assist Veterans in their transition to civilian careers. They also find value in military recruiters as potential members of their company HR and recruitment teams.
Perhaps one of the most important conversations was about “hiring bias”–that is, perceptions that those who have never served may have about Veterans, their experiences, and how those experience helped shape their personality and capabilities. Some of the important takeaways from this discussion included:
- Not all Veterans have PTSD. Of those who have PTSD, it does not mean they are violent or a threat to others–every person is different. Only 10% of Veterans [overall] actually saw first-hand combat experience, but PTSD is not unique to combat experience–nor is it a guarantee that combat experience leads to PTSD.
- Needs vs. Wants. In many cases, Veterans transitioning into civilian careers have little idea about what is available, what job descriptions really mean, and how to describe their military experience and skills to civilian recruiters and interviewers. Having contact with other Veterans who have transitioned successfully into civilian careers can have a resoundingly positive impact on helping bridge the military-civilian gap. Often we tend to approach prospective employment from the stance of what we think we want rather than what we really need–having a Veteran mentor can help understand what Veterans bring to a company and what in the company may work best for the Veteran based on experience, skill sets, and ability to grow.
- It is not hard! No, it is the most forgotten part of your career that can be the biggest benefit to yourself and the prospective company–your soft skills. Let’s face it, military personnel gain leadership responsibility and positions at a relatively junior level compared to their civilian counterparts. This is a bonus for companies! We also understand teamwork, mission focus, prioritization, analysis, risk assessment, and other skills that benefit the gaining company and are typically lacking in civilian counterparts.
You know, reaching out can be very difficult for some Veterans. We have all been taught about self-reliance, about being strong for the team, cheered on with you can do it by others, and so forth. But like in your military team, the reality is that nobody expects you to have to make the transition to civilian life alone–your fellow veterans are here to help you, as are myriad organizations that focus on helping you be successful in your transition and your civilian career! The most difficult part for many is reaching out–but your fellow Veterans are here to help and we understand from where you came and the context of many of your experiences. We have made the transition and want you to be successful, too! Whether you reach out to those who you know, organizations (like AMVETS, American Legion, VFW, DAV, MOAA, various service-related Veterans organizations) or individuals who provide career assistance, the important thing is taking the same initiative that I tell your civilian career-seeker counterparts: Get Up, Get Out, Get Going!
Please feel free to comment and share your experience!
Questions? Feel free to reach me here or at firstname.lastname@example.org (no cost involved ever for my fellow military and Veteran colleagues). You can also find me on LinkedIn, Facebook (DrCarlBForknerPhD), Pinterest (DWWTC), and YouTube (CarlBForknerPhD). My business and education Blog is carlforknerconsulting.net — feel free to take a look.
I am also a trained Military/Veteran Resource Navigator. Beth Ciaramello is also trained as are other professionals and citizens in your neighborhood. Your fellow Veterans are here to help–we are still part of the team!