In a pandemic, smart companies are hiring unflappable military veterans11/09/2020
It’s hard to throw Luis Penichet for a loop. The 27-year-old Marine Corps veteran acclimates to unusual situations quickly — he spent weeks sleeping in a 7-by-10-foot box in the African heat of Djibouti and led a logistical team in the freezing cold, snowy terrain of Norway during NATO exercises.
But when the pandemic descended in March, he was rattled, not only because of COVID-19, but also because he feared that the job he had just lined up at JP Morgan, his first as a civilian, might be in jeopardy.
Luckily for him, the investment bank communicated with him regularly.
“The recruiter told me that my job was 100 percent safe and that they were committed to me,” Penichet said. It was a relief because he had been looking forward to his first day for more than a year.
Anthony Chiocchi, who was involved in Penichet’s recruitment, explained that communication is always key in helping veterans move to the private sector smoothly, but during the pandemic, they have kicked it up a notch. That’s something Penichet values.
“Twenty veterans commit suicide each day because they have difficulty transitioning from military to civilian life,” Penichet said. “When you’re in [the service] you have a huge sense of belonging — everyone wears a military uniform, has a common purpose and mission.”
Veterans can easily fall into a crisis. That’s a problem not only for family and friends but also for businesses and society at large.
“Veterans have training and skills that are difficult to find in others,” said Kevin O’Brien of Astound Virtual, which holds virtual career fairs for veterans. “Employers actively seek out individuals with the kind of character, work ethic, sense of commitment and teamwork that you gain in the military.”
On Penichet’s first day on the job in August, working remotely from his grandfather’s house in Red Hook, New York, he dressed in a suit and tie, because he “wanted there to be a line between work and home,” he said. Plus, when Penichet is dressed for the job, he feels focused on work.
“Everything has been great since I started,” said Penichet, who has met over 100 colleagues, including some senior-level managers. “They have even encouraged me to share my opinions and assured me that they appreciate getting a different perspective.”
All of that said, he’s eagerly awaiting the day when he can meet his co-workers in person.
“I’m very extroverted, I crave social engagement. You have no idea how badly I want to go to the office.”
Luis Otero feels the same way. The 50-year-old retired US Army major devoted 31 years of his life to the military, handling logistics in places like Afghanistan, Africa, Germany and Iraq, making sure that supplies and transportation were where they needed to be at the moment they needed to be there.
As a project manager on the expansion of Verizon’s network, he also would rather be working from an office, but knows that the members of Verizon’s employee resource group for veterans (Veterans & Advocates Leading Verizon Media Responsibly, or VALOR) have his back if he feels too isolated. Even before he started, Tommy Jones, a retired Army first sergeant and senior manager of talent acquisition at Verizon, provided him with access to the group.
“I spent years in a high crises environment, not waiting for 100 percent certainty before taking action or expecting that someone will tell me what to do,” said Otero.
That kind of agility is valuable, according to Carla McIntosh, head of talent acquisition at US Google Operations Center and a US Air Force veteran. “Veterans know how to navigate ambiguity,” she said.
Dominic Veltri, director of facilities engineering and construction at Verizon and Otero’s boss, echoes her sentiment.
“We work in a high-octane environment, even when there’s no pandemic,” he said. “We value the adaptability that veterans have.”
RESOURCES FOR VETERANS
For Veterans Day on Wednesday, LinkedIn is launching a new Open to Work campaign, calling on civilians across LinkedIn to reach outside their networks and offer to help a veteran who has tagged their profile #OpenToWork.
On Tuesday, Google is hosting a live Q&A for veterans — offering tips for applying to work at the company. This wraps up its four-part veterans career series, available on demand via CareersOnAir.WithGoogle.com.
The experience that veterans gain in the military is valuable to private sector employers, but that isn’t always obvious. Resume Engine has a tool that translates your military record into a resume that civilian employers can understand.
Columbia University offers an academic excellence and career readiness program specifically for veterans in transition. It consists of three courses over four months, with assignments generally taking two to three hours per week. Cost is $99. Log on to Edx.org for details.
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