Heroes Linked – Employment mentoring for veterans and spouses

Sunday, February 01, 2015

As anyone who has ever been unemployed knows, landing a new job can be a daunting task.

But for recent veterans, especially those dealing with the added strains that accompany a forced retirement from active service, searching for a job in the private sector can be much more difficult.

So difficult, in fact, that as of 2014, the unemployment rate for young veterans ages 18 to 24 was 13.5 percent. And, the ranks of job-seeking veterans are growing.

Over the next 10 years, the armed forces are expected to shed more than 100,000 service members each year, as reported by Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez in April 2014.

Factors that adversely impact job-seeking veterans include: a lack of civilian credentialing and licensing, a weak or nonexistent professional network, difficulty in conveying skills to HR departments, and unfamiliarity with civilian business and workplace environments.

Civilian sector professional development mentoring can level this playing field and complements military resume conversion engines and veteran-friendly job listings that are now widely available.

Heroes Linked, a new, free mentoring platform, harnesses the American people’s desire to give back to the men and women who served in the armed forces with one asset they have in abundance – knowledge gleaned from careers spent in the private sector.

Traditional civilian-to-veteran mentoring programs have been limited in scale due to high barriers to entry for mentors that include long-term commitments and the blurring of boundaries between the professional and the personal.

Utilizing technologies that were unavailable just two years ago, Heroes Linked removes these barriers and upends the personal mentoring paradigm to make it accessible, mobile and scalable.

Open to both veterans and their spouses, and operating as an online professional development matchmaking service, Heroes Linked participants answer carefully selected profile questions that result in targeted mentor recommendations.

This allows mentors to quickly evaluate the mentees that contact them.

Veterans and their spouses can identify potential mentors by filtering their search results by a range of parameters including occupation, job title, industry type, and location.

Communicating through the Heroes Linked website – www.heroeslinked.org – mentors respond to veterans’ requests and choose who they want to mentor and for how long.

Once there is agreement for the initial mentoring session, the Heroes Linked system sends out scheduled call reminders and handles the ensuing phone conversation.

An unlimited number of subsequent calls can take place if both parties agree, but participants will be encouraged and prompted to limit them to 30 minutes or less in the interest of protecting the mentors’ time.

Modern Voice Over IP technologies allow for the protection of personal phone numbers, while at the same time ensuring accurate call scheduling, notification, and privacy.

Calls can be made on devices ranging from landlines to smart phones to desktop computers and everything in between.

Feedback and networking are part of the Heroes Linked process.

Participating veterans and spouses are issued limited "contact credits" to be used for mentor requests.

After each conversation, veterans can earn access to more credits through prescribed actions such as promptly sending follow-up notes and thank-you letters.

To further help their job search, mentees will be able to share their Heroes Linked profiles and mentor endorsements on popular social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.

Mentors can share their mentoring statistics and encourage their friends and colleagues to become mentors as well.

The benefits that veterans bring to future employers are many and include a strong work ethic, world-class skills training, and leadership traits.

Successful reintegration is a win-win situation for both employers and veterans. Heroes Linked will help make that happen.

Heroes Linked is a project of the Military and Veterans Appreciation Trust Foundation (MVAT), a nonprofit organization that funds charities supporting veterans, wounded warriors, and their families.

Heroes Linked will be released in public beta in the second quarter of 2015.

To receive as an invitation to be one of the first participants, sign up now at heroeslinked.org.

(Editor’s note: James Colbert is the chief operating officer, Heroes Linked – www.heroeslinked.org – and is the executive director, Military and Veterans Appreciation Trust Foundation – www.mvat.org.)