WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 20, 2014) – Transitioning Soldiers and Army spouses have a trove of experience and insight to offer civilian employers, say Army experts.
Part of being a successful Soldier is not only being successful after the Army, said Col. Adam L. Rocke, director of the Army’s Soldier for Life program, but becoming a community leader and an ambassador for the Army.
“We’re preparing you at some point to transition out of the service, whether it’s a first term, or for a Soldier like myself, who has been in for 30 years,” he said. “We all transition. We want you to be ready for that transition. So we provide you things along the way to do that.”
He pointed out that the Army has recently refined and renamed its transition program, turning the Army Career and Alumni Program into Soldier for Life: Transition Assistance Program, or TAP. Services start at least twelve months before separation — 24 months for retiring Soldiers — and are now required.
“Whether you need to go to TAP or not, you should go down and visit TAP,” he said. “There are over 700 counselors. There are improved services, a partnership with the Department of Labor, Veterans Affairs and the Small Business Administration — all there to help service members and their spouses and dependents for a successful transition.”
Army spouses are now eligible for the program as well, Rocke said. He works closely with Noreen O’Neill, an Army spouse and director of the Military Spouse Program at Hiring Our Heroes, a program run by the United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation, to connect spouses with employers at specialized networking events and summits.
These include federal agencies, small businesses and nationwide Fortune 500 companies that can hopefully keep spouses employed as they move with their Soldiers.
O’Neill said that all too often she sees spouses list their volunteer experience at the very bottom of their resumes. Instead, she said, Hiring Our Heroes has a resume translator that can help spouses create skills-based resumes that highlight volunteer work and minimize resume gaps. She said she would not have her job without experience she gained as a volunteer.
Spouses and employers should think outside the box, as well, said Lynn McCollum, director of family programs at Installation Management Command G-9, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Programs.
“Even within [Installation Management Command], we’ve had some challenges because the mindset is everybody needs to come to an office to come to work,” she said. “And yet there are many jobs that lend themselves to working from home. They’re perfect sometimes for military spouses who can do their job. You don’t have to be at an onsite location with the technology that we have today. So part of that, I think, is a mindset. I have on my staff two military spouses who work remotely and every time there’s a PCS move, I know I have to prepare for battle because I have to get that approved again.”
O’Neill added that Army spouses are great networkers — with each other. They need to use the same skills to connect with potential employers.
Rocke agreed, saying that Soldiers should also be networking, and should start that process the day they join the Army.