I left active duty in 1993. It was a sudden decision, the culmination of several events - a helicopter crash that killed 12 friends, and a dream job that was promised me, then given to another. I left active duty completely unprepared to enter the civilian economy. I didn't understand the value that my military skills and experiences brought to a civilian employer. I didn't know how to write a resume, let alone translate my military skills in "civilianese", and certainly didn't understand the value of a Top Secret clearance. I returned home to a city that is not a "military community" - with a small Air Force base that is virtually unseen by the town.
With a wife and two small daughters I went back home unknowingly ignorant. In spite of myself, I obtained a job interview at one of the largest privately held companies in the world. During the interview, the young human resources manager looked at my resume, then across me at the table.
"Hmmmmm. Army officer", she paused. "You Army officers are really good at following orders and doing what you are told but here at XYZ Industries we value people who can think outside the box, make great decisions, and operate with little supervision. I don't think you're right for us."I walked out the door vowing to never work at a company so ignorant about an Army officer! Why, a few months ago I received a medal for planning an operation involving two Ranger battalions parachuting into a desert and with air and artillery support from the USMC! How could she not know there was no task too difficult for me at which to succeed? The fact was - I failed to prepare myself, the Army failed to prepare me, and XYZ Industries and the professional HR societies failed to prepare her.
I eventually took a job that paid far less than my skills warranted and contained virtually zero authority or responsibility. For several years we struggled, pinching every dime to make sure we could buy groceries, until another veteran reached out and offered me a position completely outside of anything I had ever done before.
Fast forward fifteen years. Now I have had positions where I have hired people and directed sales organizations. In every instance where possible I have looked for a veteran to hire - and have found it difficult to find veterans, particularly those leaving active duty and coming back to my home town. Even the local Air Force base transition office was of little value. The resumes I do see from new veterans are woefully inadequate for civilian use - unfortunately civilians don't care how long you were a squad leader, or how many skill qualification courses you attended.
Sometime around 2007 I discovered facebook - one as a way to stay connected to my now grown daughters, and one to start reconnecting with high school friends for an upcoming reunion. Low and behold, there's Rangers on facebook! In a fairly short period of time I built a network of nearly 2,000 Ranger veterans on several social media platforms. Soon I was helping unemployed Rangers network and connect with job opportunities, and I had an absolute blast.
The more involved I became with connecting veterans, the more I learned about veteran issues. As a patient of the VA system myself, this also because very interesting to me. I learned:
I also learned that veterans are 2.5 times more likely than a non-veteran to start a small business, and although veterans are a bit over 5% of the working population, we deliver 13% of economic growth (source Nick's Rant). I also learned that the federal government has a wonderful set-aside program for Service-Disabled Veterans, where by law 3% of the federal procurement budget must be awarded to small businesses owned by veterans who earned their qualifications the hard way.
- Veterans comprise about 12% of the US population overall
- Post 9/11 veterans are about 1% of the US population
- Veteran unemployment is more than double the US national average
- Veteran homeless rates are 3-4 times that of a non-veteran
- Tragically, eighteen veterans commit suicide every day - and a third of these are under the active care of the VA
A first-term enlistee probably enlisted upon graduation from high school and has never written a resume, never sat through a job interview. Yet he or she launches full of pep and vinegar back to a hometown that doesn't have jobs available for people that KNOW how to look and are connected locally, let alone a brand-new veteran returning to the community after years away.
All of this comes together in the form of GallantFew, Inc. A non-profit run by veterans for veterans. We match veterans who have successfully transitioned from active duty and now run their own small businesses, are salespeople, managers, or executives and match them in a mentoring relationship with a veteran just leaving active duty. Our mentors coach the new veteran on how to rewrite their resume, rehearse a job interview, connect him or her to their Chamber of Commerce social group, golfing friends, book club, church group - all to facilitate four areas: social networking; professional development; emotional support; and physical assistance (home modification for disability, etc). We also connect with employers and human resources groups to educate them on the value of a veteran as employee and facilitate communication, helping resolve issues if needed. If the veteran qualifies for the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business program, we coach him or her through the process. We will never charge a veteran a penny for providing these services.
We have already achieved some successes - and are building a strong team of mentors ready to get to work. While our initial focus is on the US Army Ranger Regiment, we will make every effort to match and assist any honorably discharged veteran of any branch of the service. Our ultimate goal is to provide a veteran as mentor to EVERY new veteran that wants a mentor - and we make every attempt to match mentors in the same hometown, same branch of service, same professional interest - thereby growing a strong local support group of veterans.
“"During a recent, unexpected downsizing, I found myself looking for work. With Karl's help I was able to tweak my resume to a more business friendly format. Through his networking and guidance I was able focus my resume, get multiple offers and accept a position at a great company in only 6 weeks. Karl was a tremendous help."In order for us to provide a quality mentor-mentee match, ultimately we'll need some case managers on staff. We are putting together professional mentor orientation and training materials and other resources that ain't cheap. We need not only mentor support, we need significant financial support as well to do this right. We are a total volunteer-run operation today, but to be effective we need professional staff members managing these mentor relationships and connecting with and training corporations.
Finally, as an inexpensive way to immediately reach large numbers of veterans, GallantFew is rolling out First Saturdays. First Saturdays is a monthly free veteran get-together at a local breakfast spot. One local veteran volunteers to be the point of contact, selects and coordinates a local breakfast spot, and gets it listed on the website. 8am the first Saturday of each month veterans gather to network and socialize. Eventually we'll have a First Saturday in every city in the country - a network of veterans helping other veterans. The first location listed is in Wichita Kansas, and Denver and Maryland are coming on board very soon - pending location coordination. No one has to make a reservation, no one has to lay out any money - drink a glass of water if that's your budget. The important thing is, be there!
As 2010 closes there are only a few more days left to make a tax deductible donation to a worthy cause. I hope you take a look at GallantFew and consider honoring us with a donation.
God bless our veterans and the United States of America.