Up to 245,000 enlisted service members are expected to leave the military annually through 2019, according to a report published by Brown University. For many of those service members, the transition back to civilian life and employment is a difficult one. It’s often hard for both veterans and employers to see how military experience, such as sniper training, handling explosive-sniffing dogs, or Special Operations work, translates to a civilian career.
For many military veterans, the answer is starting their own businesses.
Here are three stories of veterans who launched entrepreneurial companies to help other veterans successfully transition back to civilian life.
When combat arms veteran Adam Gonzales returned from Afghanistan in 2012, “I knew I had gained a wealth of unique experiences, knowledge and wisdom that were invaluable,” he recalls, “but I had no idea who would employ me back home in the United States.” After finding a job as Director of Operations for a private security firm, Adam faced another challenge: recruiting people with the unique skills and background to work as private security professionals in hostage-rescue or kidnap-prevention operations for private and corporate clients.
Adam’s wife, Susan Gonzales, a former military intelligence officer, set up a website to create a pipeline of qualified candidates. Silent Professionals was so successful that Adam soon had more veterans looking for work than jobs available to fill them. The Gonzaleses decided to expand Silent Professionals to other employers seeking security professionals.
Since then, more than 1,300 veterans have found jobs through Silent Professionals, which has almost 40,000 users per month. Employers pay for job listings; access is free for veterans. “It has been extremely rewarding to be able to put our brothers and sisters into meaningful jobs,” says Adam, who hopes to grow Silent Professionals beyond its current niche.
After serving in the U.S. Navy, Natalie Oliverio entered the world of HR, where she spent more than 10 years as a corporate recruiter across multiple industries. In 2015, she also started mentoring military veterans, and quickly realized there was a huge opportunity to help veterans and their spouses succeed after their military careers.
Veterans didn’t know how to convey their military experience in a way that employers understood; employers didn’t understand the true value of military experience. To connect the two, in 2018 Oliverio founded Military Talent Partners. Her company connects employers with extensive networks of veterans, military spouses, transitioning military and gold star family members.
Military Talent Partners mentors transitioning military, veterans and spouses through career planning and discovery to help them find meaningful careers in the civilian world. Military, veterans and spouses receive free mentoring to identify potential career paths. They also receive regular coaching sessions, help creating a resume, interview preparation guidance and more—all for free. For employers, Military Talent Partners provides a variety of customized solutions to help them connect with “the best and the brightest.” The personalized approach is one reason the company boasts a 98% placement rate.
After leaving the U.S. Navy, Mike Slagh wanted a job in tech, but discovered he couldn’t get his foot in the door. The former Military Bomb Squad Officer realized others must share his frustration, so he started Shift, which uses technology to help match military veterans and transitioning service members to careers in the technology industry.
The Bay Area company, founded in 2016, uses data analysis and predictive tools to examine clients’ military backgrounds and interests and develop a career patch. Clients are then matched with clients with available jobs at Shift’s partner companies and get guidance on preparing resumes, handling job interviews and more.
For active-duty members of the military, Shift offers a Military Fellowship program that immerses them in jobs at participating companies for the last three to six months of their military service. This “trial period” exposes participants to new opportunities and helps them develop job skills that will be valuable whether or not they take a job at the same company. The goal is to find a perfect match so both the veteran and the employer are happy with the results.
Are you a military veteran transitioning to civilian life? SCORE can help you, too. Get matched with a mentor and receive free advice to help you start or grow a business.