This week, the Bush Institute's Military Service Initiative is partnering with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative and the United Service Organizations (USO) to host an event that highlights the resources and careers available to transitioning service members, veterans, and their spouses. As we dive into this important issue, the Bush Institute is publishing a series examining the important role that employers and non-profits play in veteran transition and recommendations on how to leverage a veteran's leadership talent.
Today, Bill Rausch, the Executive Director of the non-profit Got Your 6 and a former Army Major, discusses why hiring and investing in veterans isn't simply the right thing to do, it's the smart thing for business leaders and employers to do.
Can you give us some background on how/why Got Your Six was formed?
In 2012, Got Your 6 was created to empower veterans to lead a resurgence of community across the country. The campaign unites cross-sector partners who believe that veterans are uniquely suited to tackle society’s most pressing challenges. Through service to others, we serve ourselves.
Leveraging a coalition approach, we work to integrate these perspectives into popular culture, to engage veterans and civilians together to foster understanding, and to empower veterans to lead in their communities. We know that most veterans leave the military seeking new challenges, and the campaign ensures that in doing so there are opportunities for them to continue their service.
This campaign is for all Americans—because all Americans should benefit from veterans’ leadership and skills. For civilians, Got Your 6 helps to dispel misconceptions and myths about who veterans are and what they have to offer. For veterans, Got Your 6 ensures that they are empowered to lead by uniting the nation’s best veteran empowerment organizations.
In your experience in working with veterans who are transitioning, what would you say is the number 1 issue they face when they began applying for jobs?
The biggest issue I see veterans face when transitioning is the same issue I had; finding a community and sense of purpose again. Despite having a supportive family and strong network, I struggled being part of a community again and that negatively impacted my transition. I went to several programs designed to help me transition. But no matter how good a transitioning service member becomes at writing their resume, updating their LinkedIn profile, or applying for jobs, having a support group is truly a game changer for veterans. Communities or networks provide us with relationships that can be leveraged for internships, interviews, and job opportunities.
A great way for veterans to build community and find job opportunities is by volunteering. Joining a veterans group or local organization is a way to meet and connect with neighbors. It’s also a great way to meet with potential employers and hiring managers. Even with the perfect resume, it can be difficult to make it past Human Resources and to the hiring manager so building community is important. It’s a way to feel part of a team again. Check out our list of nonprofit partners to find out more about what’s happening in your community!
Can transitioning service members effectively use the skills they gained in the military in the private sector? If so, how?
Absolutely! I served over 10 years as a Field Artilleryman and although I’ve never fired a howitzer or rocket in the civilian sector the values and skills I learned as a leader in the U.S. Army have helped me lead a successful career out of uniform.
Simple skills like showing up early to work, leading by example and having a can-do attitude is the foundation I have built my career on. Working long hours in a stressful environment every veteran is used to and the values we embodied in the military are the framework for success in any job, in any industry.
Remember, nearly 250,000 service members leave the military each year and re-enter civilian life. We believe that it’s crucial for Americans to see veteran reintegration as an opportunity, because veterans are uniquely suited to solve some of our nation’s most difficult challenges. Not only have they have acquired skills from their military job. But they’ve acquired a vast amount of other skills. They have leadership experience, a sense of teamwork, a vast network, and a sense of humor (which is always a plus in the workplace). And when you think about it, taxpayers have paid for veterans’ training. We should see the potential for veterans to strengthen our communities and embrace their service in the private sector.
Can you outline for employers why hiring veterans will benefit their company?
I’ve worked in politics, the private and nonprofit sector and I can say with absolutely certainty that there is a clear ROI in hiring veterans and family members. In addition to the values and leadership experience nearly every veteran possess, we know that veterans are also more likely to go the extra mile. Later this month, Got Your 6 is launching the 2016 Veterans Civic Health Index (VCHI) that validates that veterans are more civically engaged than our civilian counterparts. We vote, volunteer, and know our neighbors at much higher levels. These traits equate to veterans starting affinity groups at work, organizing community service projects, and just being more engaged in their communities.
In a recent survey, when global business leaders were asked what they value in their colleagues (i.e. drivers for being employed/promoted), the top three were; honesty, dedication and being organized. And veterans have all those attributes.
What would you say to a veteran who may be struggling with their transition?
You’re not alone. No matter what you did in the military or how many years you served, three years or thirty, transition is tough for all of us. I’ve been there and I’ve gotten through the tough times but I didn’t do it alone. Reach out to your friends and family. If that’s not an option join a veteran empowerment organization that can connect you to your community and give you the tools, experience, and confidence needed to provide you with a sense of purpose again.
I vividly remember the days and nights longing to be back in Baghdad. I used to think back to the “good times” in Iraq but not remembering the horrible and difficult moments of my deployment. I longed for a mission again, a sense of purpose, a higher calling. I remember feeling empty not being around people I could trust completely with my life and feeling like folks didn’t understand me. We’ve all been there but we can get through it. We have the ability and the opportunity to reach a point in our lives when we stop looking back to the deployments and assignments we were given and start looking forward. We have the potential and opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those around us. Our service doesn’t end when the uniform comes off.
We took a one team, one fight approach to every mission in the military and that’s the same approach we need to take back here at home. That’s the key to our transition and success.