Starting a new career can be tough — even tougher when skills that should make you a great candidate work against you instead. Many veterans face an unfair stigma during the recruitment process, in part due to a misunderstanding of the transferable skills that make service members assets in civilian work forces.
As part of their Project Opportunity efforts, Nestlé works with organizations like Hiring Our Heroes to help veterans not only connect with employment opportunities, but also with training in how to develop resumes and interview skills.
Lisa, an Army veteran who is now part of the Nestlé Waters Human Resources team, is passionate about advocating for veteran hiring after experiencing negative attitudes to military service first hand.
I spoke to Lisa about her life in the military and after her service.
Let’s start with your experience in the military, what prompted you to join?
I’d always had this vision that I’d be in the FBI or the CIA, so I was exploring career paths and decided that military intelligence was the right option.
I already had a degree in business management, and I was working in an HR role, so it was suggested that I join at officer level. I didn’t want to do that; it was important to me to enlist and get the experience of training from the ground up, getting those experiences with my peers — it felt like it would be better for me personally.
What did you learn from your time in the military?
Unfortunately I picked up an injury early in my military career and was forced to leave, but even my short time was one of the toughest experiences of my life. I was married and had a young son, and had to spend a lot of time away from my family — I missed my son’s first step, and his first haircut.
I was training on base when I found out about the attacks on 9/11, and I couldn’t believe it. Being away from my family during that uncertain time was rough — and it meant developing courage and confidence I wouldn’t have learned so quickly in a civilian environment.
Family is extremely important to me, and now I know to live in the moment and really be present when I’m with them.
What was it like adapting to being back in the civilian world once you left the military — was it challenging finding work?
I was very fortunate when I left. My husband, who had been primary caregiver to our son, was able to go back to work and support us — and I had a second son during that time. I didn’t know how I was going to make money myself, but I kept thinking about the many veterans who leave without the same safety net I did.
The stigma against military hiring became clear in some of the interviews I took part in. I’d had an HR role before the military, and as I was trying to re-enter the civilian workforce one recruiter really grilled me, saying “usually, if people leave a job they like to join the military, there’s a reason” — it was obviously an unfair insinuation. “Yes,” I responded, “I had interests to pursue”.
That was tough — a lot of people I know in the military have been hurt or lost a loved one, that risk is part of the sacrifice you make when you enter the military. I firmly believe veterans should be rewarded, not punished, for that sacrifice.
What do you think the solution to this kind of stigma is?
Education and awareness. I think a lot of people just don’t understand how transferable military skills are — you need employees who are flexible, dedicated, who work cooperatively, who are agile and have integrity — these are all essential skills you learn quickly in a military setting.
What has your experience been like at Nestlé Waters?
By the time I applied for my role here at Nestlé I’d been out of the military for 8 years, but in the interview process there was still a clear gratitude and accolade for my service. That was incredible. In all the areas I’ve worked in here, we always treat military service as a bright spot in somebody’s resume, we’re looking for the kind of qualities that veterans offer.
We’re also a learning culture here. You don’t need to start out as an expert, but you should have a passion for learning and adapting to new challenges. For me that’s been really meaningful. I love having the opportunity to raise my hand and learn something new.
Why is working with partners like Hiring our Heroes important?
You know, a lot of organizations and companies focus entirely on organizing careers fairs — which is great in itself and I really do applaud those efforts. But what I think is even better about Hiring Our Heroes and the work we do with them is that it’s about more than ‘can I hire this person?’
Hiring Our Heroes really focus on preparing people for the world of civilian job applications. Training people on how to build a resume, how to present their fantastic military experience without getting lost in military lingo, and then how to follow that up with great interview skills once they’ve been brought into the next stage of the recruitment process. That way, the challenge changes from ‘can I hire this person?’ to the even more effective ‘can I help this person be a top candidate, wherever they pursue their career?’
For me, this is something I can be really proud of at Nestlé — because nobody in the military should ever feel like they can’t re-enter civilian life due to lack of opportunity. Opportunity is everything.
Learn more about Project Opportunity.