veterans at a table

Lending a Hiring Hand to Transitioning Military Members

By Nancy Gast Romps

At MITRE, volunteers from The Veterans’ Council well recall their own adjustments from military to civilian employment. They’re committed to sharing what they’ve learned with today’s crop of transitioning veterans.

Whether it’s resume-writing, navigating the civilian job market, or just getting up to speed on today’s hiring trends, veterans preparing for post-military employment face unique challenges.

Our MITRE veteran staff members have been there, done that. That’s why for the past several years they’ve brought their experience and advice to free workshops just for transitioning veterans—an outreach project of The Veterans’ Council (TVC).

Approximately 17 percent of MITRE’s staff self-identifies as military veterans. They work across domains including health, defense, and cyber. TVC provides a platform to connect MITRE veterans with each other and with veterans outside the company who could benefit from TVC member experience and expertise.

Veterans Helping Veterans

“It’s not a hiring event,” emphasizes Shelley Bard. Bard is a lead cybersecurity engineer, former U.S. Air Force officer, and one of the workshop’s organizers. “We provide this information veteran-to-veteran to help make transitions a little smoother, with personal insights for getting to that next step.”

Claudia McKnight, a principal aviation system engineer and workshop co-lead, recalls her own transition from U.S. Coast Guard pilot. “For me, the hardest thing was figuring out how all the interesting, unusual things I’d done in my military career would translate into a civilian job.”

Bard, too, remembers the unexpected challenges of moving from military to corporate life. “It’s a total adjustment—even down to how often we get a paycheck. We’re providing information on best practices for adjusting to the outside, starting with the job search.”

We provide this information veteran-to-veteran to help make transitions a little smoother, with personal insights for getting to that next step.

Shelley Bard, MITRE lead cybersecurity engineer

Identifying Strengths for Future Roles

In November, TVC welcomed approximately 50 transitioning veterans to a virtual resume and career workshop. (The workshop format varies; sessions pre-COVID were in person and hybrid.) Participants learned of the opportunity through their military branch Transition Assistance Program advisors, direct outreach by MITRE employees, and social media. 

Kicking off the event, MITRE career and strengths coach Amy McDuffie-Blackett asked attendees to identify one positive word people use to describe them. Among the responses: Calm. Adaptable. Consistent. Encourager. Connector. Creative. Assiduous.

Attendees had been invited to take Gallup’s CliftonStrengths Assessment, which measures users’ unique talents—their natural patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. The results provide a report on personal attributes and tips for maximizing impact on organizations by contributing what users do best.

“Picture a star with points representing your talent,” McDuffie-Blackett explained during the session. “With conventional development, we recognize what we’re good at but focus on filling the gaps.” She pointed out that people who focus on using their strengths are three times as likely to report an excellent quality of life.

No One Left Behind

In addition to the strengths-based discussion, MITRE representatives from both TVC and Human Resources sounded in on a variety of other topics, including resume development, assessing compensation packages, the use of artificial intelligence in recruiting, and tips for acing interviews.

The workshop’s conclusion isn’t the end of MITRE support. Each participant leaves having been assigned a MITRE Mentor, a veteran employee who can continue to guide the transitioning military members throughout the application and hiring process—regardless of where they ultimately land.

Intelligence systems engineer James McGarrahan, a former USMC signal corps member, closed with encouraging words for the November participants. “Be proud of your achievements and the skills you’ve rightly earned.”

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