Focus on Veterans

By Brian Carhide

photo 2Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the first annual Veterans Institute, Heroes Work Here event at Walt Disney World in Orlando. The Walt Disney Company began an initiative in 2012 and set a goal to hire 1,000 Veterans over 3 years; like everything else Disney does, they went above and beyond by hiring 2,500 Veterans thus far. Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, and First Lady, Michelle Obama, spoke at the event, both recognizing the great potential of these men and women who served our country, and shared insightful information on how to capture this talent.

The First Lady and Vice President Joe Biden launched an initiative called Joining Forces a few years ago, bringing together a team of subject matter experts, to assist Veterans in making a seamless transition from the end of their service to the private sector; an inter-agency task force program, which is now mandatory for all individuals separating from military service. The program is designed to bridge the gap to the civilian workforce and make our heroes career ready!

A key topic that has been a challenge, not only for Veterans, but for career advisors is how we articulate the military attributes into a business application. Much of the conference was focused on successfully identifying those attributes and how they can be applied.  Below is a reference that can be used to help Veterans look at their military attributes and how they could be of value to a potential employer:

Veteran Attribute                                                                Business Implication
Entrepreneurial………………………………………………………..Adept to taking ownership
Assume a high level of trust……………………………………….Trust in co-workers and leaders
Skill transfer…………………………………………………………….Rapidly apply skills from the military
Advanced technical training………………………………………Adept at the latest technology
Act decisively in the face of uncertainty & change………. Skilled at making decisions with imperfect info.
Resilient………………………………………………………………….Bounce back quickly from adversity
Advanced team building skills……………………………………Rapidly integrate into project teams
Strong Organizational commitment……………………………Loyal to leaders and organizations
Cross cultural experience…………………………………………..Cultural literacy to include languages
Comfortable in diverse work settings………………………….Seeks diverse work groups
(provided by Syracuse University – Institute for Veterans and Military Families,

The conference also presented a panel of Veterans who currently worked at The Walt Disney Company and provided them an opportunity to share their stories and challenges. One of the panelists spoke about one of her challenges, something I took for granted, but completely understood the Veteran’s perspective. The Veteran told the story of her first networking event and how the dress for the event was business attire; however, the panelist was unsure what business attire included. We think of those in the military, always looking their finest and dressed to impress, but in reality their best dress is the same attire every day.  Another challenge mentioned was a Veteran’s knowledge and ability to maximize the use of social media in the job search. The military places limitations on service individuals and the ability to use social media, many times for the sake of national security, which does not allow them to develop social media profiles.

photo 1The conference was nothing less than spectacular, from high level individuals speaking to the great stories of those individuals who fought for the very freedom that is provided to us every day! These are talented individuals, and there is no doubt they deserve our service in providing them the tools and resources to be successful after their separation from service. Beyond the resources the Career Services Office provides to our Veteran population at Embry-Riddle, I leave you with this, a robust list of other resources, to help our Veterans successfully bridge that gap.

Brian Carhide has more than 20 years of professional aviation experience. He spent many years as a professional pilot, including experience as a charter and airline pilot. He has been a leader in guiding young aviators in higher education at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and is the Executive Director of Career Services.


The Financial Transition from Military to Civilian

by Katherine Pilnick

The transition from military to civilian life is one of the most difficult changes with which you will have to deal. Your entire life and regiment will change, whether you’re retiring, entering the civilian workforce for the first time or planning on earning your degree. No matter your next step in life, your finances will undergo a major overhaul. Consider these changes and prepare accordingly.

Before You Leave the Military

While you’re still in the military, start thinking about how you’ll make ends meet as a civilian. No matter where you go next, it’s wise to have at least some money saved up.

If you’re retiring, make sure you have enough money in the bank to last the rest of your life. Remember that any pension you receive won’t cover all expenses. When done properly, retirement saving and planning can take decades.

If you plan to go to college after duty, you’ll be eligible for several education benefits through the military. Such benefits are meant to ease the financial burden rather than take care of the bill completely. Again, save up some money to last you through college. If you don’t think you have enough saved up, you might want to consider looking for a part-time job while you’re in school.

Or if you decide to enter the workforce, know that this itself can pose financial challenges. When possible, begin looking for work and sending out applications before you leave the military. This can help cut down the amount of time between military and work.  It’s important to create a fund and save up some money for the first few months you’re out of the service. calls this a transition fund and recommends you make it large enough to last nine to 12 months. Use this money to cover expenses while you search for a job. Consolidating your finances can also help simplify the transition. 

 Changing Expenses

Along with your lifestyle, some of your expenses will also change. While in the military, you may receive benefits like a housing allowance on top of your salary. Once you leave, you’ll have to cover this type of expense on your own.  You may also need to pay for items like health insurance if your new job doesn’t include it.

Keep these new expenses in mind while you are creating a savings fund and make sure you have enough money to cover everything. It’s a good idea to consult a financial specialist to help you plan your budget and expenses if you are unsure of anything.

Getting a Job

If your goal is to get a job and start a career right out of the military, talk to friends and family members about what to expect. Brush up on interview skills and be prepared to talk about your time in the service. If you’re offered a job, remember that salaries are negotiable. Think realistically about how much you need to earn to cover expenses and make sure your salary is enough.

Katherine Pilnick writes and blogs about personal financial well-being and issues that influence it for, America’s Debt Help Organization.

Alumni Career Spotlight: Stephen Smyth

Stephen Smyth, DB 1995

When Stephen Smyth graduated from Embry-Riddle in 1995 with a BS in Aircraft Engineering Technology, he was certain that he was going to complete a 20-year career in the Army. As a First Lieutenant serving at Irwin Army Community Hospital in Fort Riley, KS, Stephen was exposed to new career possibilities and decided to leave the military to enter the civilian workforce. Today, he is a Medical Device Consultant with DePuy Orthopaedics, a Johnson & Johnson company.

How did you go from a degree in aircraft engineering to a career in medical device sales? 

I was Army ROTC at ERAU and the engineering degree enabled me to secure a full 4-year scholarship. Upon graduatiuon, I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Medical Service Corps. During the next four years on active duty, I served in a variety of leadership positions. During my final assignment, I worked in the hospital at Ft. Riley, KS. I was the Chief of Materials Management. In this position I was able to meet a wide variety of civilian pharmaceutical and medical device sales consultants. The job sounded amazing and fit my interests. When I finished my commitment to the Army, I obtained a position as a Pharmaceutical Representative and later was able to break into Medical Devices.

What does a medical device consultant do?

I provide technical support and make recommendations regarding our products to surgeons and their staff in the operating room for a variety of surgical cases (e.g., Total Knee, Total Hips and Trauma in Orthopaedics).

How has your Embry-Riddle degree been helpful in your position?

As an engineering graduate, I consider myself to be a problem solver. When problems are encountered in surgery, which seems to happen a lot, I am able to lend my advice to the surgeon and provide various solutions. I always have a plan B, C, and D when I start a case. My degree has also helped me to easily grasp the highly technical nature of my job. In addition, my educational background has allowed me to stand out among other candidates when vying for job opportunities.  

Do you have any career advice for ROTC students getting ready to enter into the military, and/or military personnel getting ready to transition to civilian work?

Network, Network, Network! Establish relationships with senior officers so that when you need a letter of recommendation, you’ll get it easily. Network with civilian contractors too. Work to continously update and build on your resume. Work on your master’s degree while serving. Start the relationship process early in your military career with some of the better JMO (Junior Military Officer) recruiting firms. Create a LinkedIn account and post your resume on Monster and some of the other job boards. It also doesn’t hurt to get to know the Career Services staff at Embry-Riddle and to check out the resources they have available on their website for those who are transitioning from the military.

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