- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource


The makings of a great place to work

by Carolyn Heinze, Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: Northern California College of Construction

Return to May/June 2013 Issue


transition from deployment to employmentBack in the 1990s, when every geek with an elevator pitch was blowing hot air into the bursting dot-com bubble, companies were scrambling to prove just how cool it was to work for them. “You can play Hacky Sack on the job!” “We have a pool table in the employee lounge!” “You can take naps after lunch when you work here - we’ll even supply the cot!” “Free gym membership if you sign on the dotted line!” “Work for us and we’ll walk your dog!” “We’ll walk your dog and babysit the kids if you work for us!” The competition for talent was ferocious, and organizations were willing to do just about anything to fill their empty cubicles - mostly, by rarely discussing the actual work.

As we know all too well, when it comes to finding a job, it’s no longer a buyer’s market. But savvy organizations know that recruiting and retaining talent is an expensive enterprise, and one of the most effective ways of attracting and keeping good people on board is by being a great place to work.

Leslie Caccamese would know. As director of strategic marketing and research at the Great Place to Work Institute in San Francisco - the firm behind Fortune Magazine’s annual “100 Best Companies to Work For” list - she’s in the business of, well, great places to work. What’s encouraging is that not only are there lots of organizations out there that are focused on offering positive work environments, a growing number of them are committed to providing great workplaces for transitioning veterans. She points to several companies such as Capital One, Chesapeake Energy and Accenture, which have programs in place to support their veteran employees in a variety of ways through networks, mentoring programs and even dedicated military relations departments.

Caccamese notes that one way to discern whether or not a company is truly military-friendly is how they handle the salaries of those who, while on the civilian job, get called back into active duty.

“A lot of organizations will offer differential pay, so if an employee who is a military member gets called back into active duty, they will pay the difference between their military salary and their usual company salary until they return,” she explains. “Some might cap it off at 12 months, some might not offer it, but I have to say that more often than not, I’m seeing this military differential pay being offered as well.”

Another interesting development, Caccamese points out, is the number of companies that are offering career development services to transitioning vets. This doesn’t result in an outright hire, but it does provide ex-military members with some insight into the civilian workplace. Scripps Health in Southern California, for example, has a military mentoring program that enables veterans and their families to job shadow as a means of exploring whether or not they are suited for a career in healthcare. Intel’s employment readiness training programs assist veterans in honing their resume-writing and job interviewing skills. And, Ernst & Young encourages veterans to consider starting their own businesses through its Entrepreneurship Boot Camp.

Veterans can also glean clues from the job postings themselves notes Patricia Dorch, the Murrieta, California-based author of “Military to Civilian Transition: Job Search Strategies and Tips to Get Hired in the Civilian Job Market.” “If you regularly see the same company advertising the same position, over and over again, that’s not good,” she says. It hints that the organization is experiencing high turnover, which, in turn, could very well mean that it’s not a great place to work.

But aside from veteran-specific concerns, what makes for great workplaces for transitioning veterans? The answer, says Caccamese, largely depends on the company’s culture, and whether or not you fit in.

When you’re reviewing job descriptions for available positions, not only must you ask yourself whether you possess the right skills, you also have to consider whether the organization will fulfill your own needs as an individual and, in many cases, as a household contributor.

“Understanding what your own values are is a good start,” Caccamese advises. Are you the type of person who prefers being independent on the job, or are you more of a team player? Do you need personal recognition in order to feel that you’ve accomplished something, or do you succeed when the whole team succeeds? “There are places that reward and recognize the superstars, and then there are places where companies say, ‘There are no superstars here - when one person wins, everybody wins.’ Those are important cultural elements that you need to understand and of which you should be conscious.”

Carolyn Heinze is a freelance writer/editor.

Return to May/June 2013 Issue