By Magen James
Alaska Forget Me Not Coalition
Unless a person has direct experience with the Military, many do not understand the unique challenges that transitioning from the Armed Forces present to the Service member and his or her family.
Not only are there transitions within the family as they settle into a non-Military setting (moving off of an installation, settling into a permanent place of residence and adjusting to a different pace of life and work), most Service members are entering the civilian workforce for the first time or the first time in many years. Making the change from the Military to civilian employment is one of the hardest transitions a Service member has to make, due to the vast differences between Military culture and civilian employment culture. Leaving a highly structured, defined and consistent organization and entering a flexible, ambiguous and less defined employment culture is a challenge for many as they are settling into civilian life.
While the change can be daunting, employers can create environments and workspaces that are conducive to hiring and retaining Service members and Veterans.
Employers are realizing that transitioning Service members and Veterans make excellent employees due to their diligence to complete a job to the best of their abilities; their honesty and integrity, ability to work well both in teams and individually; and many other traits. To recruit and retain Service members and Veterans employers are beginning to realize the importance of employee readiness groups (ERGs) and Veteran support networks (VSNs) as an answer to the loss of camaraderie and structure a Service member faces when they separate from the Military.
Developing a successful ESG or VSN is a process. At the base level, hiring managers need to have a baseline understanding of Military culture. There are multiple online webinar resources hiring managers can utilize, including the Alaska Forget Me Not Coalition’s (FMNC) partner, PsychArmor.
PsychArmor provides webinars on various topics including Military Culture: Topics for Everyone and Transitioning Services Members & Their Families.
In addition to having a basic understanding of Military culture, hiring managers should also have the MOS code translator on hand for interpreting Military jobs into civilian terms. MOS stands for Military Occupational Specialty and is used by the Army, Marines and Coast Guard. The Air Force coding system is called the Armed Forces Specialty Code (AFSC) and the Navy uses the Naval Enlistment Code (NEC). The Alaska Forget Me Not Coalition recommends using O*NET (www.onetonline.org) Military Crosswalk for translating MOS, AFSC, and NEC. The hiring manager simply chooses the branch of service and enters the MOS number or job title for a list of job descriptions, skills, and similar occupations. This allows the hiring manager a basic understanding of the Service member’s skill set.
Once an employer hires a Veteran, developing a support network is essential to retainment. Successful ERGs and VSNs have similar fundamental goals: Veteran to Veteran mentorship programs; actively values Military service and practices Veterans appreciation, and recognizes Military families have unique and different needs than civilian families and proactively works to expand employee assistance programs to meet those needs. The U.S. Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment & Training Service (US DOL-VETS) provides a catalog of steps and resources to set up ERGs and VSNs (www.dol.gov/VETS).
In addition to recognizing and supporting Military families, employers should also produce clear career development paths and additional career skills training opportunities. Providing a roadmap for career development lends an element of stability in a seemingly unstable environment and generates goodwill and trust in the company.
Service members and Veterans have spent their first career as our Nation’s protectors, developing a remarkable work ethic, dedication to their profession and need for meaningful employment.
By developing employee readiness groups and Veteran support networks, employers can capitalize on these skills. Providing a clear path forward, a sense of belonging and mentorship in the newest phase of their lives will ensure a dedicated and successful Veteran employee.
The Alaska Forget Me Not Coalition organizes its mission and goals around five focus areas: behavioral health, employment and finance, legal, faith-based services and child and youth services. Each focus area hosts its own meetings and determines goals and objectives based on quantitative and qualitative data provided by members. Organizations that are interested in getting involved should first visit: www.Forgetmenotcoalition.org to learn more and contact the Coalition at email@example.com.