By Julie O’Rourke, WTC Stratcom
Last Thursday and Friday, eight Warriors in Transition and AW2 Veterans participated in a two-day résumé workshop to prepare applications for federal jobs. Experienced human resources counselors from the Office of Personnel Management provided tailored advice to Soldiers in hands-on sessions. Participants were also provided online resources that help translate military experience into civilian terms. This week, these Soldiers and Veterans will have the opportunity to network with federal officials at the 2011 Wounded Warrior Federal Employment Conference.
Beyond identifying the correct words to express their experience, last week’s session helped participants better value the skills they had acquired during their military careers. They were coached in reading federal job listings and pairing position requirements with their own skills. The Soldiers and Veterans who attended the program were enthusiastic to continue serving their country, to provide for themselves and their Families, and to become independent despite their injuries.
I met with some of these Soldiers and Veterans on the second day of the résumé workshop. I asked them to share with me their message to hiring managers. MAJ Johnny Agbi asked that we look past physical issues to see what a Veteran has to offer, “The largest handicap we face is the limit society places on us.” MAJ Agbi is proud of his training and experience in the medical field, his multilingual skills, and his ability to learn and to be adaptable.
Active duty reservist MAJ Stacy Haag realized through the résumé writing seminar that some skills she took for granted in the military are valuable in the private sector–such as the ability to work well on a team, self responsibility, and attention to detail. MAJ Haag is a logistics specialist, responsible for establishing base camps. MAJ Haag requests hiring managers to look beyond keywords and search terms, and to consider life experience.
SGT William Thomas is a chemical specialist who was deployed to Iraq and experienced multiple improvised explosive device attacks. The résumé workshop was particularly useful to him; this is his first résumé. Although they often do not have private sector experience, Veterans are used to arriving to work on time, presentable, and ready for duty.
Being so close to a number of IED explosions, SGT Thomas suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He asks that hiring officials be patient, because often they cannot see every wounded Soldier’s injuries; not all wounds are physically apparent. But, he stressed, “The potential is still there.”
Reservist SFC Danny Zirkle hoped the skills learned at the résumé workshop will open new avenues to a better job. SFC Zirkle added that its hard to talk solely about his personal work because in the Army, almost every task is completed as part of a team.
The strength to overcome their injuries and the resilience to start over in the civilian workforce are skills in themselves. Each of the Veterans I spoke with embraced new learning and flexibility to build on their strong military foundation. With very different skills, specialties, and experiences, I hope the Soldiers attending the résumé workshop will settle into distinct roles, where their individual abilities match the needs of a federal agency.