For Returning Vets, It’s Not Jobs, It’s Careers

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Service men and women exiting the military today face numerous challenges. Army veteran Matthew K. explains, "My transition to civilian life has been challenging. I experienced trouble in my civilian job early on, and unfortunately, things did not work out." For many servicemembers like Matthew, finding a job immediately is crucial in supporting a family, paying the bills, and re-integrating oneself into society. Consequently, veterans often wind up taking the first job offered, rather than defining a long-term, meaningful career.

At American Corporate Partners (ACP, www.acp-usa.org), a nonprofit organization that connects veterans with corporate professionals for career guidance, we see hundreds of servicemembers each day who want to utilize their leadership skills in jobs with higher levels of responsibility. However, veterans often have a challenging time quantifying the skills acquired in the military and translating them into the corporate world.

Much has been done to help these veterans get jobs, but it is important not to lose sight of the goal: not just to get veterans on a payroll, but to get them on a satisfying career track that uses their unique skills. According to ACP's Veteran Mentoring Program participants, underemployment is a common issue. While only 20% of our veteran applicants ask for help finding a job, 60% want help in understanding what kinds of careers match their skills, and 56% want to build a network of civilian professionals. Army veteran Jacob K. describes his mentorship experience as both a personal and professional gain. He explains, "In our time together I have learned extensively about the corporate selection process, and about myself. After laying out a 12 month action plan, Neil and I are now refining the targeted company list, informational interview schedule, and plan of action."

We suggest a re-focus of the effort to re-integrate veterans – not only to make it easier for them to find jobs, but also to help them find their way into promising careers. ACP assists veterans in their career endeavors through the tool of mentorship: a year of one-on-one, personalized guidance from a corporate professional for the purpose of networking, mentoring and career counseling. ACP is dedicated to assisting veterans develop the valuable relationships, key skills and action plans needed for success in the private sector.ACP Mentors provide guidance in multiple sectors, including (but not limited to) finance, health care, manufacturing, and entrepreneurship – and the demand for these mentorships is growing. Since 2001, two million servicemembers have left the military and returned to civilian life. Estimates suggest that an additional one million will leave the armed forces in the next five years.

Navy veteran Zach S. is one of many transitioning veterans who sought out a mentorship for his small business. His Mentor, an IBM executive, provided feedback as Zach planned his business and created prototypes for his outdoor safety products, some of which are now on the market. He writes, "My Mentor has continued to be an invaluable resource every time we speak and I could not be more grateful for the opportunity ACP has provided to my startup company."

ACP's efforts provide long-term solutions for veterans like Zach, endowing them with skills and career knowledge that will last a lifetime, and creating pathways to fulfilling long-term careers.

If you are interested in applying for an ACP mentorship, please visit www.acp-usa.org to complete a Protégé application.

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