Honoring Our Veterans: Helping them Find their Place in the Civilian Workplace [Video]
Veterans Day is a chance to take a moment and really appreciate the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make for us. Saying thank you is wonderful, but have you ever thought about how we might be able to make life easier for our soldiers when they decide it’s time to return to civilian life?
Many organizations are helping HR managers and veterans find ways to help each other. I met some amazing people at 2018 Annual SHRM Conference who are really making a difference for both veterans and employers.
Lieutenant Colonel Justin Constantine transitioned from the military to civilian life twice. The first time, he was a young lawyer with plenty of trial experience…
Lt. Col. Justin Constantine, USMC (Retired): When I first left active duty as a lawyer in 2004, I had a normal transition, and it was difficult. I applied to lots of places to work, was rejected from lots of places.
But he was quickly called up as a reservist… on his way to Iraq.
Constantine: We were on a mission one day in Oct. of 2006. We were in the area where we knew a sniper was operating – he had already killed some of our Marines there, I was shot behind my ear and the bullet came out of my mouth causing incredible damage. When they rolled me over I was no longer breathing.
Thanks to a brave Navy Corpsman and some wonderful doctors, Constantine survived the un-survivable. After a long recovery, he says his second attempt to find work was very different.
Constantine: People were kind of bending over backwards to help me. I was very fortunate in that regard.
Soon, a friend-of-a friend helped open doors which led to positions in the Justice Department, the FBI and even the Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee. But most military personnel don’t find that kind of support when they decide to hang up their uniform.
Constantine: In the military, they don’t do a great job of preparing our soldiers, marines, and other folks, for that transition. So, they kind of come out a little confused and overwhelmed. You have to learn to talk about here’s what I did, what I accomplished, and that is unnatural for many of us in the military.
A quarter of a million service members make this transition every year, but 65% of those who do get jobs, don’t last very long.
Andrew Morton, SHRM: That’s not to say the culture of a private organization is toxic, it just may not be what the veteran is used to, so somebody has to help them. You have to understand what they are missing, what they are yearning for, the things they have left behind after they’ve served in uniform.
The solution for getting these veterans into the right jobs is two-fold. Companies have to figure out how to find, hire and keep the right people, while the vets need to learn how to apply, interview and sell themselves. Things are getting better as companies realize the many benefits veterans bring, and more people step up to help bridge the gap between the two worlds.
Jack Fanous, Job Path: I founded a veteran’s non-profit about 12 years ago called the GI GO Fund after one of my best friends was killed in Iraq. We were all young kids, we didn’t know what it meant to serve in the military or help the military – none of us were veterans We were taking people to baseball games. We thought that that was what we were supposed to do. Not recognizing that there was a lot more need in the space.
Soon, Jack and his friends were helping those veterans find jobs.
Fanous: We were helping them write their resumes, we were helping them access job training, connecting with employers and advocating on their behalf.
That small non-profit has grown into JobPath, and now helps 150,000 veterans every month.
Fanous: I would get resumes from veterans who they wrote on their own, it’s like a book report! You know… 8 pages long, telling the story of their lives. Nobody knows how to format it properly.
Not only does JobPath write and format resumes to be compliant with applicant tracking systems across the country, but they also provide free online job training, connect veterans with mentors, and help them choose from thousands of available jobs. The service is free and is offered to veterans’ spouses as well.
Fanous: We also double that with services for HR, and that’s kind of what we think is the secret sauce of JobPath. If you think about the UN, we are like a simultaneous translator. We speak Veteran, we speak civilian and we bring everybody together.
All three of these men have also dedicated their time to teach the HR community to teach employers show to be a veteran friendly workplace. Constantine and Morton recently published a book: "From We Will to At Will." It helps demystifies the culture and mind-set of today’s veterans to help businesses create a path for success. It also helps employers understand there is real ROI to these hires, from tax credits to the fact that veterans often come to the workplace with excellent benefits.
Fanous: I think it’s a benefit to hire veterans because they actually come with so much healthcare, so many benefits and services from the government. If you really look at it mathematically, you can save money in a whole lot of places.
Do you have the right culture to welcome veterans? It’s not as complicated as you might think.
Morton: Your organization needs to be an organization that has a purpose, that has a goal, that has a mission that a veteran can buy into and believe in. You don’t have to be saving lives, frankly. Many days in the military were very mundane for me, but I was part of a coherent group that had a larger set of ethos and values together.
If you are ready to make a difference, check out www.yourjobpath.com. You can also purchase "From We Will to At Will" online. For the Screening News Network, I’m Jennifer Gladstone.