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Each year, 200,000 veterans return home and face the prospect of transitioning into civilian life. Most will need jobs, and for many the transition to civilian life from military life will likely require significant determination. Both are daunting prospects, and both are challenges that Boston-area businesses can help them meet.
Companies can tap many resources to find veterans to recruit and hire, among them nonprofits such as Onward to Opportunity from Institute for Veteran and Military Families and Hiring Our Heroes from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Wounded Warrior Project, which helps veterans re-enter civilian life, conducts employment bootcamps around the country. During these two-day bootcamps, small groups (15 to 20) of veterans refine their personal narratives, polish their resumes, and conduct mock interviews. Deloitte has collaborated with Wounded Warrior for an upcoming bootcamp in November, and attendees will mock-interview with members of Deloitte’s Armed Forces Veterans and Military & Allies Community (an inclusion council, or employee resource group) for veterans.
Once hired, veterans must next adapt to their new career, colleagues, and workplace. Some veterans might well stride into a corporate role with the confidence of a five-star general. Others, however, may need help transitioning from the military to the civilian workplace, as these are two very different worlds.
Companies should not underestimate the challenge many veterans will likely face in making the transition from the military to the commercial workplace since the differences are practical and tangible. For instance, the chain of command in the military is rigid and hierarchical. Troops know exactly who they report to. A corporate chain of command is less rigid and more matrix-like, with employees reporting to one person for one set of tasks, and another for a different set of tasks. Some veterans may find unstructured environments unfamiliar and might face challenges with interpersonal relationships that are based more on equality than hierarchy. Overall, they can experience a crisis of identity.
Other differences are less tangible. Even men and women who have enjoyed successful military careers might experience impostor syndrome, marked by self-doubt and feelings of failure and hopelessness when starting a second career in the civilian business world. In this case, employee resource groups or allyships, supported strongly by management, can help veterans network, provide support for each other, and importantly, feel as if they are not alone. Training civilian managers to recognize and appropriately respond to veterans’ needs specifically during the pivotal moment of doubt, is important in making veterans feel welcome and foster the confidence to forge successful careers.
In 2022, Deloitte’s Career Opportunity Redefinition Exploration (CORE) program team continued to provide virtual and live support programs to veterans transitioning to work from military service. More than 2,100 transitioning veterans have graduated from the CORE Leadership Program.
About 3,000 veterans nationwide belong to Deloitte’s Veterans and Military Affiliated community, a group that includes veterans, spouses, caregivers, and advocates. In our Boston office, we bring veterans together to connect on those experiences that unite them. We hold events such as quarterly social gatherings, our work with the Wounded Warrior program, and our Fitness Challenge that brings people together for fun runs.
These veterans may have an understanding of each other’s lived experiences, both overseas and in transitioning to the workplace, that provides a meaningful level of acceptance. For anyone who has not served in the military, it may be difficult to imagine the challenges that come with transitioning to the private sector. We ask anyone who has not served to support the veterans in your life by becoming an ally: join allyship organizations so that you actively listen, learn and can act with empathy.
As we use this space to share our perspective, we can’t leave without elevating one veteran’s voice from our local Deloitte community. Here is what one Boston professional shared about his transition from the military to getting his MBA, and on to his work with clients and colleagues:
For 10 years of my life, I was known by my military service either while attending the Naval Academy or while serving in the U.S. Navy. It was my sole identity to my family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers. As I transitioned out, I was not certain what I wanted to accomplish because I was wrestling with the idea in my mind to find a job/role as fulfilling and rewarding as my military service.
Coupled with this frustration, I experienced self-doubt through graduate school as I felt behind many of my classmates in terms of business knowledge and basic societal norms, which many of classmates gained through their early professional careers.
After graduate school and as I began my consulting career, I was hesitant to share my military service with clients as they thought I may be considered less value to the team and not able to contribute. Therefore, I only shared my military background with people that directly asked. Over time, I became better at mentioning my previous military background, yet I am still concerned how people will react.
Additionally, as I started my consulting career, networking and “cold” emailing other professionals was uncomfortable as I felt I was burdening them to ask for their time to simply connect or ask for advice/input on my project. Therefore, I would either turn towards self-research and study to avoid reaching out or overanalyzing the email before hitting send.
Please consider this perspective as November commences and your company reflects on inclusiveness. With the proper workplace support, a civilian career for a veteran may be profoundly rewarding. Interested in referring a transitioning veteran to Deloitte? Send them to Military Veterans | Deloitte US.
This publication contains general information only and Deloitte is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor.
Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication.
New England managing partner
Deloitte Consulting LLP, Boston
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