From “We Will” to “At Will”

Roughly a quarter of a million veterans transition from military service each year. And while many may presume landing that next job is the most immediate -and essential- step in the process of leaving uniform, there’s a critical precursor to the resume building, job interview and hiring process:  Finding your “Blue Flame.” 

I had the pleasure of sitting down with author and CEO of “Ferrazzi Green Light,” Keith Ferrazzi at SHRM’s Emerging LeadHR Conference last month, and he described the “Blue Flame” as the “intersection of desire and talent,” or “passion and ability.” Retired athletes reminisce about it as they share what they miss the most about the game they played. It’s that sense of accomplishment, camaraderie and shared vision that creates lifelong bonds.

For so many veterans the “job” is both purpose and passion -that desire to make a difference- something that drove me during my twenty-one years in the uniform. While there were challenges -big and small- I felt so very fortunate to have captured my Blue Flame. The daunting task I faced as I retired from the Army in 2012 though was recapturing it in my civilian career while transitioning from the “We Will” culture of the military to the “At Will” reality of the private sector.     

There’s a sobering reality that strikes you as you take off the uniform, and transition to what I call the deep-end of the employment pool that is the private sector. Yet if you are doing that thing that you love, something you have a passion for, then swimming in the deep end is not nearly as daunting. That’s why picking the job that’s the “right” job rather than the one that’s “right now” is so very important. And serving in an organization that understands and appreciates the challenges of assimilation, and the inherent value you can bring to the organization, makes all the difference in the world. 

Today, SHRM kicks off its annual Diversity and Inclusion Conference and Exposition in Boston, and as both a SHRM employee and a veteran, I am honored to be surrounded by hundreds of HR professionals who have embraced veterans’ employment initiatives. I’m excited to meet and learn from attendees, speakers and vendors who foster these efforts in support of veterans and their families within their organizations, and as SHRM members. The most impactful of these efforts go well beyond the job fairs and resume-building seminars, and address the true challenges of this transition over the long-term, helping so many of us recapture and maintain our “Blue Flame.” 



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