Embracing veteran employment is often an advantageous move for companies looking for disciplined, team-oriented employees and maybe some good press. But numerous studies have shown that it’s just not that simple and is far from sufficient. In the rush to integrate veterans into the private sector via a multitude of programs operated by various government agencies, nonprofits, and corporate HR departments, there is a failure to address the most persistent and underlying question veterans ask when separating from the service – what now?
Over the next five years, it is projected that 1.5 million men and women will leave the U.S. military, swelling our country's population of veterans to 22.7 million. For the vast majority of veterans, their post-military careers will last far longer than their service in uniform. And, unlike their fellow citizens that did not serve, veterans embark on this new phase of their life without a personal professional network. A network cultivated from years in the workforce, colored with past employers, networking events, colleagues, classmates, family and friends. A vast web of connections from which up to 80 percent of people in today’s workforce find their jobs. *
Without these professional networks, 46 percent of service members leaving the military believe that they are at a disadvantage compared to candidates who have been in the workforce longer, it was revealed in a study by the leading advocate of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. ** Even more alarming was the discovery that nearly 80 percent of veterans left the military without a job and nearly 40 percent left the military unsure of where they would be living.
The Veterans Administration and many nonprofits serving veterans have made great strides in addressing transition issues, but the scope of the challenge is so vast that much more needs to be done. And that means engaging the broader American public. When we are asked if we want to help the environment, we join a local streambed clean up. Helping the homeless? Make sandwiches at our local shelter. Making a difference in the life of a veteran? Millions of well-meaning Americans have been told the answer is to write a check. For the MVAT Foundation, this answer was no longer good enough.
Fueled by the digital sharing economy and power of the individual, Heroes Linked was launched by the MVAT Foundation to harness people’s knowledge about their jobs, employers, and industry sector and allow for that information to be shared through actual conversations with veterans that need it. As James Colbert, Chief Executive Officer, explained, Heroes Linked is designed to jump start a veteran's professional network by providing an easy and secure way for them to communicate with private citizen volunteers. Volunteers who want to help get these veterans into the workforce in positions that will benefit from their skills and experience and then allow them to thrive in their post-military careers.
Colbert noted that unlike the one-on-one model of classical mentoring or the message boards and community groups of e-mentoring, Heroes Linked provides a geographically and professionally diverse pool of civilian sector advisors for veterans to select from and receive personal professional development advice that is open and unlimited to its users. “With more than 20 million veterans amongst us every day, we have to be breaking down barriers and providing tools and resources to veterans where they are, not where an available mentor happens to live.”
*Source: NPR report, Feb. 8, 2011 - http://www.npr.org/2011/02/08/133474431/a-successful-job-search-its-allabout-networking
**Source: Veterans Employment Challenges: Perceptions and experiences of transitioning from military to civilian life, 2012 study by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Prudential.
For more information, go to www.heroeslinked.org