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How to Tap Military Experience for Executive Jobs

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It’s a tough reality, but many men and women who have served our county have a difficult time finding jobs as they integrate into the civilian workforce. According to the Labor Department, the unemployment rate for veterans is 6 percent and 650,000 are jobless. As a veteran myself, these statistics are a hard pill to swallow. Often veterans are more than qualified to obtain employment because their military leadership experience can set them apart.  Veterans are typically characterized as team players who are most often appreciated for their organizational skills, highly developed sense of ethics and ability to remain calm under pressure.

To overcome this unfortunate employment hurdle, the Leveraging Military Leadership Program offers executive coaches and talent management experts to help transitioning veterans communicate and apply their leadership skills to the civilian sector. The effort is led by the Exelis Action Corps, the corporate volunteer service program of aerospace company Exelis, in partnership with talent consultancy Korn Ferry and the nonprofit organization Points of Light. 

The Leveraging Military Leadership Program is a free four-month development program that helps recent military veterans obtain top civilian leadership positions. Veterans of any rank who have left service within the last two years or will transition in the next six months are eligible to participate. 

Explaining the value of military experience can be hard for some veterans, and similarly, hiring managers may have trouble understanding how military experience translates to the civilian workforce. One aspect of the program is to help participants articulate their differentiated value.  

These leadership development services mirror the ones Korn Ferry offers to boards of directors, CEOs and senior business executives, but are tailored for military experience. The program was designed to help veterans hone their communication skills and civilian career strategy.

The first session, in 2013, featured three days of onsite instruction, group exercises and lectures by global leadership experts and senior executives. Participants ranged from junior enlisted to senior officer ranks in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force. The program will convene three times this year in the Washington metro area.  In the future, the program will target areas with a strong military and veteran presence.

Participants have made considerable sacrifices for our country, and it’s a privilege and duty to offer in exchange an opportunity to engage in a professional experience focused on accelerating their successful career transition. Following the program, veterans will be well-prepared to enter the civilian workforce with a focused and strategic vision, which will also benefit their employers and the economy as a whole.

Applications for the next group of veterans are due April 16, and the form can be found at this link. Participants will be selected and notified by May 5. The Leveraging Military Leadership Program kicks off with an onsite session in the Washington area June 20 through 22.

Erica Jeffries is the chief inclusion and diversity officer at Exelis.

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