IJF is committed to supporting and uplifting our member organizations, and this includes highlighting the important and innovative work they are doing every day. We will be profiling member organizations on our blog through an ongoing series. We hope to inspire conversation and connection between member organizations, the communities they serve, and anyone else who is passionate about ensuring no service members, veterans, or families fall through the cracks.
National Able Network is a 501c3 nonprofit based in Chicago that helps job seekers secure employment. Veterans Forward is National Able’s veteran focused career development program which provides career coaching and connections to employers. All career coaches at Veterans Forward are veterans themselves. We recently sat down with one of their career coaches, Kat Schaeffer, to discuss everything from the art of translation to power plants. Curious? Keep reading!
Would you like to tell us about your time in the military?
I served five years in the Marine Corps, I was F/A-18 Ejection Seat Mechanic, which has nothing to do with career coaching.
What is special about veterans helping other veterans find employment?
We have a little bit of camaraderie and trust there. It makes it work a little better. They know we very likely understand their experience. We can speak the same language.
What do you mean same language?
When they say I worked in an S3 shop, I know what that means. Whereas if they told a civilian I work in an S3 shop…they would have no idea.
Do you have any other examples of these two languages?
I had a client today that said he wanted to work in power plants because he worked in power plants in the military. In the military, power plants is a position where you are working on engines or fuel cells for equipment whether it is a ship or a truck. As a civilian a power plant is a big facility that produces energy for a city, for example.
So what did you tell this client?
I had to explain to him that you can’t walk up to a civilian employer and say you want to work in power plants because they don’t understand that you want to work on engines. So it’s having that ability to actually translate things, to say this is the civilian word for the military word that you’re using.
What is a common misconception people have about veteran job seekers?
The biggest thing I want civilian employers, and civilians in general to know is that the veteran experience, the military experience, is not much different than the civilian experience. There is just this one time in their life that was very different culturally than what most civilians have ever experienced, but work experience is work experience. Veterans have real world work experience from the military that can easily be applied to the civilian workforce. We aren’t functioning in a different world while in the military. The uniform is different and the mission is different but the skills are the same and veterans have a couple years to a couple decades of experience putting those skills to work in real scenarios. I think so many civilians have a big stumbling block when it comes to understanding how military work experience relates to the civilian workforce, it seems that they often don’t understand the military experience and might feel a little unsure of how to come to understand it, it shuts off any progress in that relationship. The important thing to remember is that military work experience is just as relevant in the civilian workforce as civilian work experience.
Is the job search for a veteran really that different than the job search for a civilian?
I think 70% of the veteran job seeker experience is no different than the civilian job seeker experience.
How often does the military come up when you are working with a veteran to find civilian employment?
Occasionally the military comes up when we are trying to translate those skills. Mostly we are trying to help them describe their military skills in ways that civilians will understand and value.
Any exciting things coming up at Veterans Forward?
Veterans Forward is launching an online platform called Mission Forward that will make our job search training available to Veterans nationwide! We have a launch party on November 18 at the Chicago Cultural Center. We are looking for support for our event from individual and corporate sponsors. We will be inviting press as well as veterans currently in job search, so this is a great way to showcase a company’s commitment to the military community. Register for the event here!
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