Nearly half of all veterans leave their post-military job within the first year due to accepting the first job offer they receive. A discussion on how to help veterans make better career decisions and to help companies make better hiring decisions.
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Interview recorded on October 21, 2016. Read a partial transcript of this interview below:
Traynham:?Let's start off with that first stat, and then I want to talk about the FourBlock Foundation. Why do you think the number is so high with respect to veterans post their military service leave after one year in terms of their first job?
Abrams:?Sure, absolutely. It's a mismatch. So a lot of vets are transitioning out. They're having a real hard time figuring out what it is that they want to do. So they're jumping on the first opportunity, that first job offer that they get. And a lot of times, it's not a good match. So they jump on that first opportunity. They've got a job. You know, they're there. They're doing it for the first time, and they realize, "Maybe this isn't for me."
Traynham:?So it sounds like managing the transition from military service to civilian service can be a bit bumpy. And my understanding is that's somewhat of the mission of your organization??
Abrams:?Yeah, correct. So, we're looking to try to bridge that gap a little bit better. We're trying to help veterans make better career decisions and to help companies make better hiring decisions when it comes to bringing veterans on board. So that was really the nexus behind, you know, what it is that we really wanted to do. And as I was transitioning out, I was actually on active duty in New York as a recruiter. And I had the honor of escorting a Iwo Jima survivor to a lot of events in New York. And he was just an unbelievable man. And one night we started talking about post-traumatic stress. And he said, "You know what, Mike? When I came home from the war, I had post-traumatic stress, but there was no such thing as post-traumatic stress back then." And he said, "The only thing that really saved me was I had my uncle come wake me up one morning. He dragged me out of the rec, and he took me to Standard Oil. And he got me a job processing orders." And he said, "The man sitting next to me was an Army soldier, and we became fast friends." He said, "The only thing that really stopped that downward spiral with me was having a new mission, having a new job." And he goes, "I credit that with really turning my life around." So as I began to transition out and to have some issues myself, I really began to think about, what is it that we could really do to help vets transition out? And it was helping them find a new mission, helping them find a new job that was meaningful, that allowed them to give back to their community in a way that matches how they wanted to serve.
Traynham:?So, Mike, what I hear you say is that it's not necessarily about the retention. It's more about the transition. Or is it a combination of both? When I say "retention," meaning, once you have that job, it's making sure that you have the skill set, that you have the time-management skills, everything that comes with anyone starting their first job coming out of service. Is it that or -- and, again, or is it just the transition?
Abrams:?It's just like anybody else, right? I'm sure you love your job, right? It's about helping vets really find where it is that they're going to continue to find meaning and purpose in their life. And when they're having that difficult transition, when they can't really find a job, and then someone finally offers them something, they got to pay the bills so they take it, right? And they take that first job. They got a paycheck. But then they realize, "This isn't what I want to do the rest of my life." So, when something else comes along, they hop on it, and usually it's very quick.
Traynham:?My understanding is you have a three-prong approach, if you will. First, it's peer support. The second is instructor engagement. The third is encouraging participants to self-reflect. Let's focus on the last first -- self-reflect. What does that mean?
Well, it really goes back to helping them really figure out where they want to continue to serve. One of the first ratings that we do as part of our curriculum is a speech given at West Point that was called "Solitude and Leadership." And the point of that article is really to help people figure out a way to really self-reflect and think about where they're going to continue to contribute, where it is that they are going to continue to serve their country and to build something, right, to have meaning and purpose. So, that's really the first step is helping them create an infrastructure where every week, they're thinking about and self-reflecting on where it is that they're going to continue to serve and have meaning and purpose, and then build off of that.