“In the beginning, it’s a little bit like landing in another country without the phrase book,” said Susan Chiaravalle, a more-than-30-year veteran of the Navy who was hired by Northrop about three years ago.
Organizations focused on veteran hiring often try to tailor their strategies to reflect these job candidates’ needs.
For instance, the USO hosts smaller job fairs for veterans seeking new jobs. In a hotel ballroom in Springfield late last year, the nonprofit, which focuses on supporting troops, teamed up with the nonprofit Hire Heroes USA to offer a career fair tailored for former members of the military.
That meant there were fewer people — meant to make it less overwhelming for job seekers who might not be accustomed to massive job fairs — and each was invited to have his or her résumé revised by Hire Heroes staff.
“If they’re coming with their own version of a résumé, it’s kind of gibberish to the hiring managers,” said Nathan Smith, chief operating officer of Hire Heroes. “If we’ve done that translation piece, it’s empowered the participant.”
Companies have also put in place programs to help veterans once they’re hired. Northrop, for instance, has relied on employee resource groups, or informal, volunteer groups to provide mentors and support for their veteran employees.
The veteran groups are known as VERITAS — short for Veterans, Employees, Reservists Inspired to Act and Support — and offer a range of events, from volunteering opportunities like stuffing care packages for soldiers to speeches.
For Chiaravalle, who runs one of the groups, VERITAS was an opportunity to meet others in the company with similar interests.
“When service has been a huge part of your life until you retire, it was also sort of a way of continuing that thread,” she said.
Rethinking veteran transition
Northrop is continually refining its approach. The company now has a staff member assigned to weighing how the company should formalize and institutionalize its employee resource groups into talent retention efforts, said Kia Silver Hodge, Northrop Grumman’s manager for diversity recruiting programs and talent acquisition.
Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin, too, is rethinking its more informal transition and retention programs. Like Northrop, the contractor has relied on voluntary employee resource groups to provide mentoring for all of its employees.
But last year, Lockheed, which has close to 26,000 employees who are veterans, formed a military veterans’ leadership forum of about 250 high-ranking veteran employees. The group is meant to provide something of an advisory board for the company’s hiring, retention, transition and philanthropy efforts related to veterans, said Teri Matzkin, a talent acquisition manager at Lockheed.
The company has also signed a deal with American Corporate Partners — a nonprofit that pairs transitioning veterans with mentors in the civilian world — to create a more formal mentorship program.
At Lockheed, veteran employees can volunteer to serve as mentors and then be trained by American Corporate Partners. Once ready, they will be made available to new veteran employees who want mentoring, Matzkin said. The program started late last year.
CACI International, which has nearly 2,800 veteran employees, last year opened a two-employee office specifically focused on veteran transition and retention.
Gordon, who helped start the office, said the company also created a mentoring program last year and is trying to start an employee resource group for veterans.
Air Force veteran Craig Wetmore signed up for the mentoring program — called Vet Connect — almost immediately after taking a job in information security at CACI. He paged through profiles of potential mentors before choosing an executive vice president at CACI who is also a Navy veteran.
“I wanted to talk to somebody who’s been in the military,” he said. “I wanted somebody who understood where I came from to help me ... [get] where I should be.”