Deloitte Program Bridges Gap from Barracks to Boardroom

Deanna Arteaga
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America's business community has instituted many wonderful programs to help veterans transition from the military to the corporate world, Deloitte officials say, and this year they're proud to add their own innovative program, designed to help service members bridge the gap from the armed forces to corporate America.

In November, Deloitte unveiled its Career Opportunity Redefinition & Exploration (CORE) Leadership Program, which provides individual",high-touch" support to current and former armed forces members who are looking to translate their military skills to the corporate playing field.

More than fifty current and former service men and women attended the inaugural, three-day CORE session, held at Deloitte University in Westlake, Texas, to learn how to adapt their military skills and experiences to the business realm.

The CORE Leadership Program is part of Deloitte's commitment to the White House's Joining Forces initiative, which calls on businesses to provide service members and their families with opportunities and support. As part of this initiative, last spring, Deloitte announced its commitment to set a goal of doubling its veteran hires over the next three years.

Terry Bickham, Talent Director, Deloitte Services LP, Learning & Development Senior Executive, and a veteran of the US Coast Guard, said",We wanted to reach out to this incredible talent pool of veterans and offer our skills and experience in an area Deloitte knows well – leadership development. We wanted to help them accelerate their transition to the civilian workforce."

With a high ratio of Deloitte professionals to veterans, the CORE program is designed to provide an intimate forum and individualized learning environment where veterans can develop the soft skills they need to transition to the corporate world.

"The CORE program is innovative because it is customized for each individual veteran", Bickham said. "Many programs offer a mass-oriented approach to skills like resume building or interviewing, but CORE is more personalized. It focuses the on specific skills each individual veteran needs to build. It is very high touch." 

Borrowing a page from Deloitte's own award-winning leadership development playbook, the CORE Leadership Program shows veterans how to:

  • Build their personal brand.
  • Develop and leverage their personal network.
  • Communicate effectively.
  • Understand corporate functions and industries.
  • Adjust to a corporate culture.

Deloitte says they're in the process of planning more sessions for 2014 and beyond and collaborating with other organizations. The CORE event also featured a panel of business leaders discussing what their organizations look for in veteran hires and insights on transition challenges. Panelists, all of whom were ex-military themselves, offered candid perspectives on how participants can maximize their military experience and showcase their strengths in a job interview. 

Bickham said the most critical factor in creating those new "soft skills" is teaching veterans how to recognize their individual strengths, then express those strengths to potential employers, as authentically and passionately as possible, in the form of a personal brand.

"We want them to tell their story using their strengths as their story", Bickham said. He emphasizes those dialectics are completely different from typical military networking and interviewing, which emphasize "talking about yourself in terms of what you've accomplished and what you're technically good at."

"Instead of saying 'I was a tank commander. I commanded a battalion of six tanks and X number of troops,' they learn to say 'I have very strong team-building skills and experience helping teams meet their objective'", Bickham said. 

Deloitte officials say the CORE Leadership Program is unique because it does more than simply help vets find a job – it helps them translate their military experience into skills valued in the civilian workforce.

"Our program aims to better equip [veterans] by providing business insights to help them align their strengths, experiences, and aspirations with the requirements of the marketplace", said Christie Smith, managing principal, Deloitte University Leadership Center for Inclusion, Deloitte LLP.

A 2012 survey by Prudential and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America indicates veterans feel those "translation skills" are desperately needed. Sixty percent of survey respondents said they had trouble translating their military skills into civilian experience, creating a significant barrier to employment.

Veteran Jason Jones, who attended the first CORE program, is just one of many veterans who says he felt something was getting "lost in translation" when he tried to sell his military skill set to potential employers.

Jones, a former US Air Force officer, said, like most former military members, he was used to "wearing his resume" – his uniform – instead of promoting himself to potential employers.

"In the military, we can look at someone's rank, their dress medals, and ribbons, and immediately know their experiences and accomplishments. Working in that world we don't have to learn skills like networking and selling ourselves so much", Jones said. 

Jones said the CORE experience taught him the "subtle, but significantly different" art of telling people how can "add value" to an organization, instead of simply listing his accomplishments.

"The most important skill I learned was telling people how I can use my background to help them meet their objectives", Jones said. "It was the difference between saying 'well I've done that' to 'here's how I can help you do that'." 

And the realization that that lesson was coming from former military members, who used their veteran experience to succeed in the corporate world, was an unexpected benefit of the CORE experience, Jones said.

"The fact that many of the coaches were ex-military made the difference between this being a good experience and a great experience", Jones said. "To talk to someone who has been on the same journey I have, and to see they were able to transition and excel in the corporate world reaffirmed, for me, the that veterans really have something to offer outside of the military. The CORE experience has really renewed my confidence and helped my presentation skills."  

In addition to CORE, key components of Deloitte's Military & Veteran's Initiative include: the Deloitte Day for Veterans, it's Armed Forces Business Resource Groups (BRG), and collaboration with the American Corporate Partners (ACP) and the Warrior Games.

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