The 21st Century Wolf Pack
Humans, like dolphins, chimpanzees, wolves and lions, are pack animals. We’re stronger as a whole than we are as one. I’m not just talking about the hunters and gatherers. In the 21st century, there’s no more influential example of this than of the power of networking. When LinkedIn’s own, Greg Call, a former United States Marine Corps Captain, and Mike Benedosso, a World Class Athlete & Platoon Leader for the United States Army, approached me about working together, I was cautiously intrigued. Not long after, it became apparent that their goals and mine were aligned. We saw a major issue with our transition programs within the military, but better yet, we saw a major way to rectify the problem. I’m thrilled to announce that I have partnered up with LinkedIn to fulfill the role as Spokesperson for their Veterans Program. With their support, I am on a mission to incorporate the power of network into our transition curriculums across our armed forces.
So, What’s the Problem?
Exactly one year ago, I went through a week long transition course that taught me a whole lot about the daunting world of a civilian, but not how to join it. I was taught that to live a life comparable to the one I had in the military, I would have to make $135,000 in Washington, D.C. Look, I am not trying to sell myself short, but unless I found a very generous employer, a big pay cut was guaranteed. I didn’t learn about the networking opportunities in my area, I wasn’t coached on interview skills, I didn’t know how to transfer my military duties into civilian jargon, and I had no idea of how important my DD214 form 4 was when applying for federal jobs. (Confused about your DD214? Check out this resource http://www.dd214.us). Essentially, on my own I would have been completely lost. Luckily, I had a pack, which was not the case for Travis.
While traveling to El Paso, Texas, recently, I met an active duty soldier named Travis, who is currently going through the course I went through one year ago. I asked him what his thoughts were, and he said, “five days of sitting around wasting time.” Next, I asked him about his future aspirations, and his answer was what you or I would expect, “I might go to school, or I’ll find a job somewhere.”
One month from now, Travis, a soldier with incredible potential will be out (how we refer to no longer being employed by the military) without a proper plan in place, without an overall end goal, but the worst part of all: without an established network. How come? It’s simple: he is a 23-year-old infantryman who spent the entirety of his young adulthood in the military, deploying to serve our nation. Overseas, our version of networking was my soldiers’ communicating with the mechanics to break the treadmill and avoid my “mandatory” run sessions. In short, Travis doesn’t know how to network, and he doesn’t know about the many organizations that work tirelessly to help veterans like him. He hasn’t met Cindy Warner with IBM, who is leading a wrecking crew to make sure veterans are hired in her organizations. He isn’t aware of Dave Gowel, with RockTech, whose goal is to break down the stigma around military not fitting into the tech world. He hasn’t spent time with Jared Shepard, of Warriors Ethos, who dedicates hundreds of hours a year helping veterans plan for their next career. No, Travis hasn’t heard of any of this and I am going to change that.
How Do We Fix It? I Have an Idea.
There are currently 2 million veterans on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the premier site for business social networking in the world, or as I’d like to say it, they’re you’re biggest, most supportive pack. They offer one full year of free LinkedIn Premium for our transitioning vets, as well as a free subscription for one year of Lynda.com classes. Through this social networking platform, they will be able to connect with companies in the cities of their choice, more importantly, they will be able to connect with veterans working their dream jobs. I like the use the example of Little Rock Arkansas and the company Target. I tell people, picture me as a 24-year-old infantryman who wants to go back home to Arkansas and work in logistics for Target Corporate. Through LinkedIn’s platform, I will be able to search for veterans working for Target, then narrow my field to veterans working at Target in Little Rock and finally, specify my search to jobs in Supply Chain Management. Boom, and suddenly I see 2 veterans doing exactly what I want to be doing. With a simple search, I can InMail these vets, explain my transition and goals of working at Target, seek their advice and gain their support. This is the lifecycle of networking.
In 2012, my lifelong passion for serving in our armed forces was cut short. Four years later, through the power of networking, a steadfast mindset and the act of seeking mentors, I am writing directly to you about my new path. I am a living proof of the power of LinkedIn. It is through this platform that I have made hundreds of connections with men and women that, otherwise, I would have never had the opportunity to meet. I have been on the phone with community leaders, industry icons, and veteran advocates. You have listened to me and I continually learn from you. This should be the story of every U.S. Military veteran.
Travis will soon leave the military with a unique set of skills, a winning mindset, and a never quit attitude. Travis is at the pivotal point, where, like Sampal, he could sink or swim, and what’s more, there are thousands upon thousands of Travis’s in the world that need a support system. If we stand up for transitioning vets, we can, together, be someone’s pack.
“Ric O’Barry was not surprised to hear of Sampal faring so well. ‘I think the others will do fine once they are released too,’ he commented. ‘They know exactly what to do; they just need the opportunity to do it.’”