To address the unacceptably high unemployment rate among military Veterans, Veterans Advantage recently organized a corporate career symposium for transitioning Veterans that featured guaranteed interviews with Fortune 500 companies. The Symposium was a program event of VeteransWeekNYC. Attendees included students from NYC schools on the GI Bill as well as Veterans Advantage members.
Made possible through underwriting support from VeteransWeekNYC2012 Presenting Sponsor GE, and Underwriting Sponsors that included Citi, Google, the City University of New York (CUNY), Tudor Investments, Penn Mutual, Avis Budget Group, and HBO, the Symposium was held at Citi’s Tribeca offices on April 26.
The Symposium brought together leading veteran executives from multi-billion dollar corporations to meet personally with New York City-area student veterans, offering advice and guidance for successful corporate careers, and providing an insider’s view of how Veterans can succeed in Corporate America today.
“This (employing veterans) is not an act of charity or moral obligation – it is about making a shrewd business decision,” said keynote speaker J. Michael Haynie, Ph.D., Founder & Executive Director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. “Bottom line, it is about winning.”
“I know that hiring you is going to make that company better,” added Haynie, who is the Barnes Professor of Entrepreneurship at Syracuse’s Whitman School of Management, and a U.S. Air Force Veteran. Haynie is the author of a groundbreaking study and compelling business case of why Vets make great employees.
Supporting the Symposium were 12 major U.S. companies that employ more than one million people globally, and have made public commitments to recruit U.S. Military Veterans into their workforce: GE, CBS, Citi, DELL, Google, BAE Systems, Time Warner/HBO, Penn Mutual, Avis Budget, Prudential Financial, Tudor Investments and SAC Capital Advisors. Each company agreed to provide an interview opportunity for Veterans who submitted resumes at the Symposium. These companies represent a wide range of industries and employment opportunities for Vets as they leave the military and school. They include finance, manufacturing, high-tech, travel, and media.
Company executives, many of whom are U.S. Military Veterans, participated in two panels on corporate resources for veterans, and industry prospects, hiring and corporate culture. They addressed specific questions and offered advice and guidance for student Vets in their pursuit of corporate careers. Breakout sessions offered the opportunity for Vets to personally interact with panel participants.
“We realize we want to hire the very best,” said Harry Wingo, a former Navy SEAL, and the Veterans Community Programs Manager at Google. “We are looking for mental athletes….you have the discipline, the drive, and you work well on teams,” he told the attendees.
Military Veterans offer strong technical skills, many of which are transferable to employment opportunities at Google, according to Wingo. These include networking operations, data centers, system administration, among others. Seeking to employ computer programmers who are Veterans, the company recently held a coding contest.
The Symposium also featured a resume-writing and interviewing workshop, where panelists offered advice on how to compose a compelling resume, guidance for personal interviews, and networking. This session included a review of high-tech tools like LinkedIn, and time-tested techniques like phone calls and personal networking.
According to Stephen L. Robinson, a US Army Veteran and VP of External Veterans Affairs for Prudential Financial, job-seeking Vets should seek the “unspoken bond that exists between Veterans” in getting a foot in the door.
“Hook up with the Veterans in the same company. Build those networks,” he said.
Kris Urbauer, a US Army Veteran and Program Manager for GE’s Veterans Network Transition Assistance Workshop, said that hiring Vets at GE dates back to former CEO Jack Welch, who sought to attract Junior Military Officers (JMOs) into GE’s executive ranks. GE is currently on a five-year mission to hire 1,000 Vets a year. Veteran support within the company comes, in part, from the GE Veterans Network which fosters networking among fellow Vets.
A common skillset among GE’s diverse businesses is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) area, according to Urbauer.
“If you have got a background in STEM, coupled with your military experience, perhaps you are getting an advanced degree in some sort of a technical field, I really think you have got wonderful prospects for employment at many companies across the US and that’s all going to raise American competitiveness in different industries out there.”
By all accounts, the Symposium was a resounding success. The participating companies collectively agreed to offer nearly 600 personal interviews to the Veterans who attended the Symposium and submitted resumes. Veterans Advantage is now planning a Fall Career Symposium in conjunction with Veterans Week NYC.