By Jennifer Marshall, Actress, Stranger Things and Navy veteran
As a veteran in the public eye, people often thank me for my service. Like most vets who served, I am appreciative but strongly feel I don’t need to be thanked—serving this country was the best thing I have ever had the privilege to do. However, because some members of our community are in need, I use this opportunity to champion for my brothers and sisters who may not have the same stability or opportunities and could use a bit of assistance in their transition.
The transition from military to civilian life can be a difficult one, even for the most prepared service member. Upon entering basic training, it takes 2-3 months for a civilian to become a soldier, sailor, Marine, airman or coastie. Yet toward the end of one’s contract, that service member only receives 5-10 days of transition assistance. Many of these young men and women departing the service joined as teens and have only known military life. A person goes from having a guaranteed paycheck, structure, and an understanding of who they are and where they fit in…to a completely new environment. One, so alien to them, that they feel ill-prepared and as if they don’t belong.
This is where you can help. Go beyond “thank you for your service.” Here are three tangible ways you can help a veteran with his or her transition. First, use that handy-dandy LinkedIn profile for good. Write a succinct offer to help mentor a veteran coming into your career field and pop that into the beginning of your bio. Even better? Join groups and/or engage in online conversations surrounding veterans re-entering the workforce and also post your offer there. For a more substantial impact, check out programs that pair vets with mentors. One such organization, American Corporate Partners connects established civilian and veteran mentors with vets entering the workforce, exponentially accelerating their learning curve over a twelve-month partnership.
Second, offer to help a veteran with their resume or give a referral for a low-cost, high-impact service that does this. Translating one’s military experience into skills that a civilian company would find useful is a daunting endeavor. It’s not that the experience isn’t there. It most certainly is. Many veterans just don’t know how to express it effectively and much gets lost in the translation. Hiring managers and recruiters have to look beyond the jargon in a military resume to see the transferable skills and leadership potential military candidates bring. Even the most junior service member will transition to the corporate world having achieved a level of leadership and responsibility that even some mid-level civilian managers don’t have. For instance, at 20 years old I was put in charge of a budget of over a million dollars for my department onboard my ship. You’d be hard-pressed to find that level of expectation or competence at that age outside of the military. Take advantage of the skills these leaders have honed and let them add value to you and your company. After all, according to the LinkedIn 2019 Veteran Opportunity Report, veterans tend to stay longer, get promoted faster and have more experience than their similarly-aged civilian counterparts.
Lastly, give time, expertise or monetary contributions to support non-profits that provide veterans with long-term therapy with the same counselor, sports-based or equine activities for post-traumatic stress or veteran retreats. Some of our brothers and sisters need to focus on healing prior to jumping back into civilian life. Giveanhour.org or NDvets.org are both organizations that help struggling veterans get the help that they need. We send our best young men and women overseas, so let’s take care of them when they return.
Jennifer Marshall is a proud Navy veteran turned actress and host. You may know her as the host of CW’s Mysteries Decoded or as “Max’s mom” on Stranger Things. Jennifer is a passionate advocate for the veteran community and believes that adequate transition assistance is the key to helping veterans succeed after leaving the service. Jennifer also advocates for the fair and accurate inclusion of veterans in film and television. For more information, visit www.jennifermarshall.com or connect with Jennifer on social media at @Jenn13Jenn13.
For additional articles around how veterans and work, check out our blog post from last week where we interviewed Oracle product marketing manager and Air Force veteran Douglas Wise about his transition.
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