Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many women were forced to leave the workforce to stay home with children or because their jobs were eliminated. For many women veterans, the toll may have been compounded because of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), military sexual trauma (MST), or pre-existing feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Mental health can greatly impact a veteran’s successful transition to civilian life. Lack of resources and connections, both socially and professionally, can intensify the issue. Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) aims to combat those obstacles by empowering women warriors to find work, boost their financial health, and improve their physical and mental well-being.
Finding not just a job, but the right kind of job, is pertinent to a successful transition from the military sector to the civilian sector. WWP’s Warriors to Work program seeks to make that connection for both employees and employers, ensuring a mutually beneficial relationship.
One of the most important things is figuring out how to overcome those unique obstacles women face with looking for a new job, said Linda Larson, a career transition specialist with Warriors to Work.
“With female veterans, sometimes they have special challenges, like being a single mother, so, they’re trying to balance that with finding a job,” Linda said. “Women are still not being paid the same as men in many cases, which can also be a challenge.”
According to WWP’s 2021 Annual Warrior Survey, women warriors make an average of $100 less per week than male warriors and are more likely to be unemployed. Women warriors also struggled more with connection and veteran identity in their post-service lives than male warriors, according to the survey.
Warriors to Work takes a personalized approach to counter some of those underlying issues and concerns.
“We meet the person where they’re at and get to know them on a personal level,” Linda said. “We work with employers and other veterans service organizations to find them their best fit.”
Teresa Rivers hardly knew employment outside of the military. She spent 34 years in the Air Force, working her way up to the rank of lieutenant colonel before retiring in February. She had plenty of experience and was a proven leader but needed to transfer those skills to the civilian sector. She met Linda while attending a transition assistance program in Los Angeles.
“The only regret I have is that I didn’t connect with her sooner,” Teresa said. “From the resume assistance to interview help to providing assistance for business clothing, and honestly, just being available, made such an impact.”
Teresa landed a job with information technology company Booz Allen Hamilton and was able to translate her military skills into her new civilian role. She oversaw the management of numerous specialized programs and operations during her time in the Air Force, so she knew she would be an asset to any company. She just had to figure out the best way to make them see that.
“When transitioning from military to civilian life, reaching out is important,” Teresa said. “I know in the military, we kind of learn to roll with the punches. We’ve been taught to be independent. But it’s good to reach out.”
Teresa said using the employment resources available to help make the transition was invaluable to her after such a long military career, as well as maintaining a connection with the veteran community.
“Definitely network, network, network. You can’t just apply online and call it a day,” Teresa said. “There are so many free resources out there. People just need to reach out and use those resources. Don’t do it alone.”
Warriors can also benefit from the different programs and services throughout WWP which work in sync to improve the warrior’s odds of finding employment and staying employed.
“If warriors are struggling with mental health, I recommend WWP Talk,” Linda said. “Don’t be embarrassed about seeking support. We all need support.”
The 2021 Annual Warrior Survey also noted women warriors less often feel respected for their veteran status in the workplace than male warriors. Warriors to Work strives to empower women warriors to recognize how valuable their skills — whether serving in the military or working at home — could be to an employer.
“Women veterans sometimes don’t realize the leadership skills they possess,” Linda said. “If you’re a stay-at-home mom or volunteering, you’re doing something special. That is not an easy job. They’re building their resume with things they’re doing regularly and maybe don’t even realize how they can turn that into a marketable skill.”
Warriors to Work helps veterans and their family members translate their special skills for the civilian job sector through resume-writing assistance, interview preparation, career counseling, and network opportunities.
Warriors to Work also educates and informs employers about the transferrable skills veterans bring to the civilian workforce and collaborates with employers across the country.
“We work with employers to help build bridges and show the value of hiring veterans – not only to recruit and hire them, but also maintain them,” Linda said.
Now that Teresa has successfully maneuvered the transition from the military to the civilian workforce, she wants to help encourage other veterans, particularly women veterans, to not be afraid to make the move and to realize they can do it, too.
“I just want [veterans] to know, ‘you got this,’” Teresa said. “There are a lot of businesses out there. If one says no, another one will say yes. Don’t give up. I’ve been rejected, and it hurts, but it’s not the end of the world.”
Teresa pays it forward by using LinkedIn and other networking sites to help newly separated veterans and unemployed veterans with tips she’s learned and directs them to available resources.
“I tell my friends to start at the two-year point, prior to leaving the service,” Teresa said. “That’s when you need to start jogging slowly to that transition period. And you can start slowly building those relationships.”
She also wants veterans to know what they bring to the table for any job.
“There are definite advantages to hiring a veteran,” Teresa said. “Loyalty is one. And they are hard-working and resilient.”
Knowing their worth as an employee and veteran and finding the best ways to navigate the transition from the military to a civilian job are key to finding career satisfaction, but the overwhelming lesson WWP wants veterans need to know, is that it’s not something they have to do alone.
“We’re their advocate” Linda said. “We keep in contact throughout the employment process to make sure it’s a good fit.”
Contact: — Paris Moulden, Public Relations, email@example.com, 904.570.7910
About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.