When I was 16 years old, an Army recruiter called my home. The conversation went something like this:
Him: “I’d like to talk to you about joining the Army.”
Me: “Actually, I’m going to be an opera singer.”
Him: “Well, we have a great Army chorus.”
I never forgot that phone call and have frequently thought about that decision, even as I left the field of opera and started a business teaching public speaking. Though I didn’t join the military, an unfulfilled desire to serve has stayed with me for years.
From my father’s service in the Army, to my uncle in the Navy and my brother in the Air Force, to close friends who are still in uniform: it’s impossible to put into words my admiration and appreciation of those who serve our country.
On Veteran’s Day, as our nation continues to welcome home thousands of transitioning veterans at all levels, I have found a way to serve them.
These transitioning servicemen and women and their spouses are facing an entirely new type of mission: searching for a civilian job. It requires a new set of skills that they didn’t learn in the military: how to talk about themselves and their experience in business (civilian) terms, how to promote themselves as job candidates, and how to build and utilize an effective network to find their next jobs.
That’s why I’m launching a new training program for veterans and spouses based on a series of interactive workshops that will teach public speaking and networking skills. At the end of these workshops, veterans and spouses will have an authentic and compelling elevator speech and an action plan for building a strong professional network. They will feel more comfortable in networking situations and more confident speaking about themselves.
I will ensure that this program is free for veterans and supported by partners who can help make it available on a wider scale. Dog Tag Bakery was the first to help; together with Georgetown University, they have launched a program to teach business and entrepreneurship skills to disabled veterans and spouses; if you haven’t already, you can support them by visiting their bakery on 3206 Grace Street in Georgetown. I’m also speaking with different branches of the military and organizations who work with them to make sure that this important piece of the puzzle is included in transition assistance programs.
Today, as we honor the service of men and women in the United States military, I’d like to honor them through action as well as words, as they have undoubtedly done for us.