Veterans might come home as heroes, but for many, the hardest part of transitioning from the military to civilian life is finding employment.
In Norman, Envision Success is focused on helping people working through life transitions, especially veterans coming out of the service.
“We deal with everything from counseling to job placement to resumé skills,” said Colby Warden, a veteran and an Envision Success board member. “In the military specifically, every job is really a bunch of little jobs pushed into one job. There’s really no translation.”
Envision Success Director Gail Wilcox said combat jobs are especially challenging to translate. Wilcox’s job in the Air Force involved industrial engineering management consulting and human resource skills.
When she left the military, it was hard to find a position with her vast range of skills.
Over time, Wilcox saw other veterans in similar positions and decided there should be an organization to help veterans transition out of the military and into civilian life.
Wilcox said they help veterans who are leaving the military, along with those who have been out for a few years or who are in the Reserves and having trouble finding another job.
Jamie Lawrence, center manager at CSL Plasma’s Norman office, has volunteered at Envision Success with other CSL Plasma employees to give veterans mock interviews and resumé help.
Lawrence said their company is also interested in hiring veterans.
While many vets do not leave the service with current accreditations, CSL Plasma has its own training program, and Lawrence said they are especially interested in those who may already have experience in some areas.
“Veterans have a lot to offer,” Lawrence said.
Warden had worked mostly in emergency medicine, but many of his certifications expired while he was overseas. Getting those accreditations again would take time and money.
“When I first got out, I thought I had all my stuff together, but even now, seven years out, I’m still trying to find out how I transfer what I did into the real world,” Warden said.
He said even once he had figured out how to tell potential employers about his training in medicine as well as running logistics, some employers told him that he was over qualified.
Warden did an interview with Lawrence and she immediately noticed from his resumé that he had experience in phlebotomy (drawing blood).
“We’re looking for a phlebotomist and it’s one position where you don’t need a certification,” Lawrence said.
Once the interview was over, she offered Warden a position.
Warden, Wilcox and Lawrence offered suggestions for veterans trying to find employment.
First and foremost, Wilcox said they should not use military acronyms or jargon. Civilians will not understand what the person has done, based on those military titles.
Instead, she said they should focus on outlining skills and tasks performed in each of those former military positions.
Warden said he has told multiple vets they need to “barney,” or dumb down everything they tell the person interviewing them about their jobs in the military.
Lawrence also suggested vets come with prepared questions about the company.
Warden has talked with multiple veterans who, immediately after an interview, regret not asking a certain question.
It also shows the person leading the interview that the veteran is interested in the position and knows about the business.
They had some tips for potential employers, as well.
The first thing Wilcox wanted to make sure employers understand is that every veteran does not have PTSD. If a veteran ducks at loud noises, that is not PTSD but a learned response that will change as the veteran gets used to civilian life.
Even if a vet has PTSD, Wilcox said there are ways the veteran can get help, and most veterans can treat and manage it.
“One thing about the military is that no matter where they enter in the rank structure, they will get leadership experience very quickly,” Wilcox said. “Even if they are just out of basic training, they could be in put in charge of a couple other people, and that increases; it goes up.”
As an example, she said when small squads go out in Iraq or Afghanistan, there might not be an officer with the group, but someone is in charge.
Wilcox said the military pushes furthering education and, at times, promotions are based on education completed.
“That’s something that I don’t think people often understand about the military structure,” Wilcox said.
Envision Success, 1151 E. Main St., is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday every week. Veterans, as well as others undergoing life transitions, can stop in any time or call 701-2015 to set up an appointment.
For more information, visit envisionsuccessok.org.
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