Helping transitioning military members: Our partnership with Hiring Our Heroes
David Wells found it tough to transition from 25 years in the Air Force to the civilian workforce without support or guidance. "I stumbled along trying different things until I found something that matched what I wanted to do — with a company that had strong ethics and a culture I wanted to be part of," he says, reflecting on his difficulties.
10 years down the road, Wells works as the Colorado Springs Site Manager for Dynetics, a Leidos subsidiary. His struggles inspired him to help ease the path for others making that leap to the civilian workforce by championing Hiring Our Heroes at Dynetics.
For Patrick Walsh, the decision to become a mentor in the Hiring Our Heroes program when he came to Leidos was effortless after his positive experience as a military fellow during his own transition from the U.S. Army almost four years ago. He notes that veterans and military spouses can be a big source of unemployment, “so if (Hiring Our Heroes at Leidos) can help match some of those skills to different roles as these military members ease out of service, it’s a win-win situation.”
Hiring Our Heroes helps military members transition into civilian jobs
Leidos has a strong track record of hiring veterans. In fact, Hiring Our Heroes fits right in line with Operation MVP, our company-wide initiative to hire, train, and support veterans. The Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program offers professional training, job search guidance, and hands-on experience to transitioning service members. Participants in the 12-week program are placed in civilian fellowships with corporations that understand the value veterans bring to the workplace.
“This program allows you to focus entirely on your transition for 32 hours a week and then use that time to reflect and not worry about a normal full-time job while you’re still developing, and I can unequivocally say that I would’ve had challenges finding a job in the time frame I needed if I was not a military fellow,” says Walsh.
“Getting your resume out there on LinkedIn and Indeed is great, but Hiring Our Heroes actively advocates for you with companies that have already expressed an interest in hiring veterans and helping military members transition," says Jason Higgs, who after 24 years will be retiring from the U.S. Army at the end of September. He is currently halfway through a Hiring Our Heroes fellowship with his mentor, Wells, at Dynetics.
Hiring Our Heroes also helps veterans prepare for a successful job search with workshops that cover topics such as how to network on LinkedIn, and how to translate military experience to civilian resumes.
In addition, the program pairs military fellows with a mentor. “They actually understand what you've done and how to use that in a civilian career without pigeonholing yourself," Higgs says. “I did logistics in the Army and was putting all my eggs in one basket. But I also did program management and project management and (Wells) helped me articulate those experiences on my resume."
Walsh’s fellow, Kevin Pitzer, was commissioned into the U.S. Army 29 years ago and has been active duty for 25 years. Pitzer’s background is in biochemistry, but he’s building skills in business development and program management with Walsh’s mentorship as he prepares for his retirement in fall 2020. Like Higgs, Pitzer will be reaching the end of his fellowship in the next month and notes that one of the most important lessons he learned is to dive into as much as possible, learn as much as you can, and meet as many people as possible that can serve as future connections.
The value military veterans bring to civilian jobs
Wells points out that many veterans have clearances, which can be a huge asset in keeping a project's timeline on track. And there are other benefits for employers that hire transitioning service members and veterans. They typically leave the military with strong technical and soft skills, such as collaboration and problem-solving.
“(Higgs) has been a great asset to our team," says Sharon Alder, program analyst at Dynetics, who supervises Higgs. “When he shared that he had combined two technical manuals during his experience in the Army, I was thrilled. That's very similar to one of our current efforts, so (Higgs) has been able to give us lots of helpful ideas."
How to prepare for a Hiring Our Heroes fellow
When working with Hiring Our Heroes, participating companies need to prepare for a 12-week program and consider the best ways to help military members transition into the civilian workforce.
Here's a checklist from the mentors:
1. Identify a mentor. Ideally, a mentor has served in the military. If no one on your team has that experience, consider asking team members with a family member or close friend. You can also reach to other departments to find someone with this background.
2. Identify a project. Find something concrete that the fellow can focus on and where they can make a positive impact. This gives them a clear purpose and will ensure that they get a true taste of the type of work they can expect in your field. That will help them decide whether it's something they enjoy and should pursue further.
3. Determine who will supervise the day-to-day. This person will be responsible for assigning tasks and checking in on progress. Keep in mind that Hiring Our Heroes fellows are still active-duty service members, so their supervisor also needs to coordinate their fellow work with their military schedule.
“I'm glad to add this experience to my resume and get a chance to see what it's like to work outside of the military structure," Higgs says. “I'm learning to be adaptable and humble, and to come in ready to learn and use my past experience and skills to make a difference. I'm looking forward to what the next few weeks hold."
For those who want to learn more about how to get involved with the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program please visit the organization's fellowships page.
Are you a veteran, transitioning service member, or military spouse interested in working at Leidos? Learn more about Operation MVP or register to attend our monthly Military Virtual Chat Series for military veterans and spouses.