One hundred years ago, ICD launched a first-of-its-kind center to rehabilitate returning WWI veterans with service-related disabilities. Three years ago, we saw that a new approach was needed to meet the needs of today’s veterans, particularly those serving in the military post-9/11. Since then, ICD’s Veterans for Employment (VFE) program has helped hundreds of veterans with diverse skills, experiences, and interests start satisfying careers. Our staff coaches veterans on writing resumes, searching for jobs, interviewing and other integral career skills. Most importantly, the staff goes the extra mile to meet each veteran where they are and to tailor services accordingly, connecting each veteran to the resources that work for them.
In today’s complex employment environment, professional networking can be the key to finding the right job and getting promotions. Yet, many veterans, especially those suffering from service-related psychological disabilities like PTSD and depression, lack the skills, experience, and confidence to connect with the people who could help advance their career. Seeing the challenges vets face, we wanted to create a safe space where each participating veteran could practice and perfect this skill.
Two recent experiences from VFE participants highlight the importance of networking:
Leto was searching for work, but he struggled with depression and physical limitations stemming from his time in the military. For nearly a year, submitting applications led to dead ends. He struggled to pinpoint what he was interested in, which made interviews even more challenging once he did get them. The long only exacerbated Leto’s struggle with depression. VFE staff recommended that he meet with other veterans who faced similar challenges. After speaking to these other veterans, many with their own successful careers, in a structured environment where he could practice his “elevator pitch” and networking skills, Leto realized a career in veteran services was a perfect fit. With a little guidance from others, it wasn’t long until Leto lined up a series of interviews, then a job, where today he helps his fellow veterans overcome some of the same obstacles that he faced.
Vincent (pictured) suffered from a traumatic brain injury after being struck by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq. After leaving the service, he got a Masters Degree in Organizational Development. After a few months of job searching, the VFE Program Director helped him tap into her own professional network. Various Human Resources professionals offered him guidance, and after several informational interviews and some professional networking, he secured a position working for the publishing and entertainment company, Guinness World Records. Vincent was a natural, but connecting with other professionals for coaching and introductions was the key to unlocking the right job opportunity.
In the armed forces, where the requirements to progress in rank are clear-cut, there is no comparable need to network. We approached DVNF for support to help create training that meets the needs of veterans who must navigate less orderly civilian career paths. Thanks to DVNF’s generous assistance, we will be able to provide an opportunity to master this vital skill through regular events where early career veterans with service-related disabilities can meet mentors, learn about networking, and run through what they learn in an understanding, empathetic environment. We hope to expose each participating veteran to the same sort of helping hands that propelled Vincent and Leto to employment success.