Veterans Day is once again upon us and a perfect opportunity for many of us to thank those who have made great sacrifices in the defense of the freedoms we enjoy. This sentiment is as widely shared today (most certainly here in San Diego) as at any time, and rightfully so.
But saying “thank you” is not enough. Many military personnel making the transition to civilian life find themselves in a unfamiliar world. While there are government programs in place to assist, limited resources prevent them from being as effective as they need to be to ensure every service member has a fair chance at employment. This situation is a key reason why the unemployment rate for these individuals has been consistently higher than the national average for some time.
There is a solution to this issue that is both effective and beneficial on multiple fronts. It’s in the hands of myself and other business leaders to become mentors to veterans who want to enter the corporate world. We, in essence, become their “sponsor,” not in financial terms, but by helping them learn the ropes. We can help them develop a solid footing to market their skill sets in “civilian speak,” make the right connections, effectively showcase their capabilities for job opportunities and even build the framework to launch their own business.
Think of it this way. None of us got to our positions without someone taking the time, care and concern to help us hone our dreams and desires into reality. The old adage is true; no one succeeds alone, but rather on the back of others. Mentoring veterans during what is a very anxious time for them is a great way to pay it back.
Beyond the altruistic intentions, I can tell you first hand that the benefits are multi-faceted and of direct value to any company. Since the summer, I have been mentoring a young, highly decorated U.S. Navy SEAL as he starts up his own consulting firm. Brandon Andrews’ intent is to create a business-centric service operation that assists a wide range of organizations in completing projects on time, within budget and beyond expectations.
I saw the passion in his eyes from the first day we met and provided him with a desk in our office, to offer the support he needed as he developed his business plan. I thought I could guide him through that process, helping him avoid the same pitfalls I encountered and get him off on the right foot. There’s no compensation in it for me. I just wanted to help a deserving service member who demonstrated unparalleled discipline, drive and determination that was worthy of support. I also thought if he could make this a growing company, he could hire other vets and be a conduit for other military personnel in transition.
What I didn’t expect was the positive influence this young person is having on our company. We’ve had Brandon at various department meetings to examine our internal communications processes and organizational behavior. What he’s been able to do -- and quickly -- is identify ways in which we can streamline task assignments and project management to build a more effective and efficient work force. These things come naturally to someone with a strong military background. He lived in a world where authority is delegated to those trained to multi-task, while keeping everyone in the loop and efforts focused on the mission at hand. He’s made us a better team in short order.
Before another Veterans Day passes, I challenge my CEO colleagues to take up the cause and mentor at least one transitioning veteran a year. Imagine the positive economic and social impact we can generate for ourselves and our fellow citizens. I promise you, it will be time very well spent.