Dr. Michael Haynie of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University speaks during the Women Veteran Small Business Entrepreneurship Course at The American Legion 95th National Convention. (Photo by Tom Strattman)

Legion Economic Summit breaking new ground

The American Legion has launched a landmark series of veterans employment events during its 95th National Convention in Houston. Two full days of workshops, symposia, panel discussions and hiring events are being conducted under “The American Legion Economic Summit” banner.  

The most innovative of the Legion’s free-of-charge aids to veterans’ employment is the “For Her Entrepreneurship – Resources, Opportunities, Experiences and Support” (For HEROES) educational session. It is an extensive and intensive, two-day, nine-hours-a-day course in entrepreneurship for women veterans. An impressive roster of presenters has been educating attendees on topics ranging from “Basics of Opportunity Recognition”, through “Markets and your Competitive Space” to nuts and bolts “Business Planning.” Would-be entrepreneurs are also being briefed on less technical but equally important matters such as “Living the Entrepreneurial Experience.” The near total immersion course, conducted in conjunction with the U.S. Small Business Administration, is being led by primary instructor Dr. Michael Haynie of Syracuse University’s Institute for Military Veterans and Families.

Other veterans’ employment convention events being staged concurrently include employment transition and “empowerment” workshops, with each comprised of lectures, one-on-one job counseling sessions and panel discussions.  

Typical of the latter was a 90-minute presentation and question-and-answer session with a group of corporate executives, each offering practical, job seeking tips. The following is a sampling of the experts’ advice.

Kris Urbauer, Program Manager of GE Veterans Initiatives, General Electric - “Make the employer an offer first. Don’t expect it to be the other way around. In other words, don’t come into a job interview and say, in our case, ‘I want to work for GE. Whatcha got?’ It’s your job to tell us what you can offer, not the other way around.”

Renee Carderelle, Executive Director, Nexstar Legacy Foundation - "Keep an open mind to the possibilities out there. There are many career options. Explore the possibilities and do the legwork before you make a choice and don’t let others tell you where you should be going and what you should be doing.”

Maureen Murphy, Director, Strategic Talent Acquisition, Sallie Mae - “Use your network. Increase your network. Develop your network. Don’t be shy about that. And, seek out employers who are actively seeking to hire veterans in particular.”

Mike Anderson, Human Resources/Talent Development, Sallie Mae - “Make sure you are putting all your efforts into your civilian career search with the same energy and focus you devoted to your job in the military. And, don’t get discouraged. If you apply for a job and don’t get a call back, keep going.  Along the way, tweak your resume for the jobs you’re looking at and are a good fit for. You just have to persevere.”

Steve Robinson, Vice President, External Veteran Affairs, Prudential - “The best advice I can give my fellow veterans is to do the due diligence. You wouldn’t go into a foreign country and not know about the environment. You wouldn’t go there and not know about the people, their religion and their customs and courtesies. You need to do the same thing to get your job. You need to know who you’re going to work with and what it is they’re looking for.  If you can do that, you’ll make a connection with an employer.”

Patrick O’Leary, Veterans Affairs Manager, United Parcel Service (UPS) - “When you’re nearing the end of your service, your last mission is to get ready for civilian life. When transitioning out of the military, preparation is the key. Be prepared to get out, don’t just be looking to get out. Get your documentation together. Take every training opportunity you can for transitioning. The TAP (transition assistance program) – don’t ignore it. Go to it and pay attention. Get your mentoring network established. Guys like me who’ve been out for 35 years enjoy helping out the new vets. Utilize resources like us. And, finally – join The American Legion.  It’s a great networking opportunity.”

Similar industry expert panels addressed contracting with the federal government, entrepreneurship and non-profit organization operation. The summit’s second day activities will include a Hiring Our Heroes Transition and Benefits Career Fair, more panel discussions and the concluding session of the “For HEROES” women veterans entrepreneurial training course.