When veterans return home from military service, finding a job suited to their skills can be difficult. Today, with an economy ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenge is even greater.

Pairing veterans with mentors in the corporate workforce is a powerful way to help.

A recent report issued by Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies indicated the problem of “underemployment” for military veterans has increased due to the pandemic. The civilian workplace is quite different from the world of the military’s hierarchical structure, with its own language and requirements unfamiliar to veterans. As a result, veterans may have difficulty locating and obtaining the position best suited to their skills. A mentor in the corporate world can help bridge that gap.

“On top of offering general support and encouragement, mentors help demystify the corporate world,” said Beth Gallagher, Director of Community Involvement at Aon. “We can share useful insight into specific industries, companies and roles and create social capital through networking and introductions. I believe mentorship is one of the most impactful ways to strengthen our communities. Helping empower individuals to achieve greater educational and career success can have a powerful ripple effect.”

Case study: American Corporate Partners (ACP)

For ten years, Aon has partnered with the ACP, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping military service members transition to the private sector through one-on-one mentoring with business leaders. Aon colleagues serve as mentors, providing career guidance to returning military as they transition back into civilian life. In ten years of partnership, Aon colleagues have mentored 463 veterans.

Wayne Brinkman, a Senior Claims Consultant at Aon, has mentored veterans since 2012. He’s worked with a wide swath of professionals from the army, navy, intelligence, and other armed services. Through a year-long engagement with each protégé, Brinkman focuses on relationship building.

“I have found that the veterans I work with are looking for guidance, affirmation, and support on a professional and occasionally personal level,” said Brinkman. “Whether it’s a lunch or happy hour, a bowling outing, a ball game, or simply Facetime, the goal to is to develop a reciprocal relationship.”

Under the ACP program, protégés report that the benefits of working with a mentor through ACP lead to greater understanding of career opportunities, improved resume and interviewing skills, being better able to translate military experience into civilian terms and the opportunity to build a professional network.

“All my proteges feel a need to catch up to their peers, as they may feel that they wasted their time in the military and have missed out on growing in the world of work,” said Brinkman. “But they really don’t need to feel that way, as they have so many more skills acquired from the military that they just need some guidance as to how to apply it to civilian work life.”

During the pandemic, applications for mentorships have skyrocketed. In a recent publicity drive, nearly 3,600 applications were submitted in one month; applications that came in reflected 25 percent were unemployed or only had access to part-time work. Unemployment has also more adversely impacted veterans of color. So mentorship is more important than ever.

ACP is in particular need of mentors with a background in Consulting, HR, Cyber Security, Real Estate, IT, and/or Small Business ownership/management. Professionals interested in supporting ACP can email at citizens@acp-usa.org with a description of your company or your professional background.