MilitaryI'm a US Army veteran and a career coach helping vets transition between careers. I'm spending my Memorial Day weekend helping to bridge the civilian-military divide. AMA!
May 27th 2016 by BobEWise • 14 Questions • 3231 Points
Good Morning Reddit!
I'm Bobby Wise, a US Army veteran and a career coach for Veterans Forward at the National Abe Network. Our organization is a non-profit workforce development agency committed to helping vets conduct a more effective job search.
Today I'll be marching 22 miles along Chicago's lakefront with hundreds of other vets to honor the fallen and raise awareness about the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day. Since that gives me about eight hours to kill, I'll also be here all day answering your questions about the job market, veterans transition, and the civilian-military divide. AMA!
EDIT: Well, it's not a proper ruck match without a little rain. I'll start answering again after the rain lets up and my touch screen becomes a bit more effective.
EDIT 2: Getting into the home stretch and the sweat is getting into my eyes pretty good. I'll be answering the rest of your questions from my laptop at home. Thanks for all the great comments and I look forward to working with everyone who reached out to me in private messages. Enjoy your weekend!
As a fellow veteran, I've seen a lot of my buddies getting out and not taking advantage of their GI Bill. Why do you think this is? I've tried talking to a few of them and they say they don't know what to major in and I guess this is a viable response. Do you have any further ideas/explanations that I can think on to aid my brothers and sisters?
My argument for using the GI Bill despite not having solid career plans is to give yourself for years to build a professional network and figure out what you really do want to do. That stipend plus a p/t job goes a long way while figuring out your future.
I learned a lot about political science while attending UIC, but not from the classes. I learned from volunteering on campaigns and getting to know professionals in the field who wanted to bring my skills into their organization when I graduated. In fact volunteering with a group called Leave No Veteran Behind led to my current job with Veterans Forward.
Since you're a veteran yourself, I must ask, how did you find yourself in the position where you're the one who's helping others? I mean, it is really really good on your behalf sir, and definitely requires willpower. What brought you the motivation, is it the empathy? I'm just wondering!
When I was getting ready to end my active duty contract a platoon sergeant in my company asked why I wanted to get out rather than take the promotion they were offering me. My response was that there would always be enough quality leadership in the Army, especially in my company where there were at least three guys junior to me who were ready to take on leadership responsibilities. I knew the civilian world was a lot more fluid and the structure that encouraged leadership and mentorship could only be created by qualified folks taking initiative. For lack of a better term I wanted to be a civilian NCO. At the time I thought that would lead me into education as a school teacher. I'm pretty satisfied where is led so far.
Thanks for asking!
So what do you suggest for a young PFC who has about a year left and can't decide to reenlist or not? Ive only been at the one duty station and ive been deployed almost the whole time i was there. All i ever hear about is How much the army varies from station to station, and i don't wanna reenlist if it is gonna continue to suck.
Get out and use your GI Bill to get a taste of civilian life. You're still young enough to go back in on your own terms of your decide you prefer the military.
I am currently transitioning out of the Air Force. Are there any general tips you could give for getting civilian employment?
I'll echo what's been said about the GI Bill, but also stress the importance of building up a professional network. I don't know about you, but when I was in the Army the closest I got to a job interview was a promotion board and that wasn't an interview. That was the large, angry men with bad haircuts giving me the third degree. Then they would chuckle as I walked out the door because o didn't pass the board because I knew the max effective range of an M-240 (1100 meters) or the name of the eagle on the 101st Airborne Division's patch (Old Abe). I passed because I showed that I could handle the stress and my NCO support channel vouched for me.
That's what your professional network needs to be. They're the advocates, mentors, and leaders who are going to help you look out for your best interests and grow as an individual.
When you get out, take the opportunity to go to school and get involved in your community. I know a lot of folks will tell you to major in something that will make you more employable, but I know guys who've majored in philosophy and English lit and they've found success by getting outside their comfort zone and developing a professional network.
It won't matter what you major in, if you treat school as your 9-5 job and don't use it as an opportunity to make yourself a known candidate it will be a waste. As my boss likes to say, it's not what you know OR who you know. It's who knows you.
Thanks for asking!
What is the biggest problems in your opinion that civilian employers don't really "get" about hiring veterans?
And conversely, what are some of the more common issues that veterans don't get about transitioning into world of civilian employment?
Thanks for doing the AMA and have a safe march.
Civilian side: Vets are a diverse group. We don't all look the same or think the same and we're not all trigger pullers who need to be security guards. Leader also isn't synonymous with officer. There are 24 year old corporals who've been responsible for 11 subordinates. What we all do have in common is a drive to succeed.
Veteran side: We're all individuals and there's nothing wrong with wanting to be different. You've got ambitions "outside your lane"? Go for it. You own your destiny now. Don't get pigeon holed. Also, don't be put off by others doing things a different way. Get outside your confort zone and meet them half way.
Thanks for the support!
Hi Bobby, Bob here...Navy Veteran.
Does your organization work with the Call of Duty Endowment in any way? You should definitely check them out as Activision-Blizzard provides funds to organizations such as yours.
CODE is fantastic! Also one of the most stringent application processes out there. Veterans Forward was recognized by then last year and they audited everything with a fine tooth comb. Best in the business. If you find an organization with a CODE endorsement they are the real deal.
Do you find service members from across the spectrum of jobs coming to you for help (i.e. everyone from mechanic all the way to things like Intel analyst). Or is it mostly members with military jobs that don't clearly translate to civilian jobs such as air to air refueling boom operator?
A little of everything.
I appreciate all of your hard work, and I know those vets do. What is the most common field you try to transition them into?
There is no one field that dominates. There are hundreds of career fowls in the military and thousands of jobs within those specialties. Furthermore a lot of vets don't want to do what they did. Career coaching has very little in common worth my job in the Army as a Blackhawk crew chief.
There are some go to employers in fields like hospitality and driving for folks who are still working out their career goals or just need a paycheck. Still, we've also helped place financial planners and GIS professionals.
A favorite program at National Able is the IT Career Lab. It's a 4 month course that let's certified training and testing for Cisco and Microsoft certs as well as placement assistance on the back end.
TLDR: Vets wind up doing everything.
Thanks for asking!
Hey Bobby! I'm a US Navy veteran myself, and after 6 years of service I decided it was time for a change. I've been out for three years and I'm currently using my GI Bill to get my masters. The issue I've been facing is finding a job in the field that I study. I have a BA in Screenwriting and I'm currently pursuing my MFA in screenwriting. I've done a boat load of research and almost every large television network has a veterans hiring initiative (usually led by Hire Heroes USA), but it's always for jobs like trucker or someone moving heavy shit. Do you know of any veteran hiring initiatives in the entertainment industry? Or, is there any advice you could give me for finding an entry level job in my field? I do have a meeting today, but it's for a position they already filled, probably with some rich guys nephew.
I do, but it's on my laptop. I'll get that to you later. I'm also working with a couple clients in a similar boat. I'll put you in touch!
Hi Bob, I have a couple of questions:
- From your experience, what was your most difficult obstacle during your transition from soldier to civilian, that you think others should be made aware of?
- What from your current perspective was the most obvious issue that you could have been side stepped dealing with making life easier and having no major change of out come on you current life.
Well good luck bud.
I'll answer both questions like this: get a therapist. I don't mean to fuel the misconception that vets ate all nuts, but it helps so much having someone to talk to who is familiar with both military and civilian cultures who is also outside your social circle. That separation has really helped me open up about what has been troubling me about my transition and I wish I had done so from day one. Everyone should treat their mental health like their physical health. No one thinks twice about having a GP or debris they go to one or twice a year. Treat your mental health with the same respect.