By: Allison Stevens | July 25, 2023
Veterans have a lot to offer corporate America: competitive skillsets, a commitment to service and teamwork, and a sense of pride in a job well done. But military responsibilities don’t always align with company job titles, so navigating the job market—and climbing the corporate ladder—can be tough. On the job, shifting to corporate culture and office life carries its own stresses.
In honor of National Hire a Veteran Day, I recently talked to Vaughn Sullenberger, manager of mortgage originations at Navy Federal Credit Union, about his own transition from military service to civilian life and his tips for fellow Veterans. He leads Veteran hiring efforts in the real estate lending department in connection with SkillBridge, a program of the U.S. Department of Defense that connects returning servicemembers to career job training opportunities.
Q: First, how did you manage your own transition out of the military and into Navy Federal?
Sullenberger: After I was honorably discharged, I went through college and worked in the financial industry at some of the larger institutions, but I felt like a number at times. I had a few life changes and made the decision to shift to a career with less travel and focus on something I enjoy: helping Veterans and family members of the Veteran community.
Q: How was your transition from service to working in a corporate role?
Sullenberger: I went straight from the military to college and worked in various positions during college to support myself. The skills I learned in the military were invaluable. The military taught me to have a mission, set goals and plan how to reach those goals.
Q: What challenges did you face during your transition?
Sullenberger: I didn’t have a lot of financial support, so sticking to my plan and focusing on the end goal of graduating from college was difficult. But my military experience helped me stay on track.
Q: How did your military experience contribute to your success at Navy Federal?
Sullenberger: We went through a lot of training, a lot of practice, planning and executing on the plan. Whether you’re a leader or teammate on a team, success happens when we work together on a common mission and help everyone be successful.
Q: What advice do you have for other Veterans transitioning to corporate work?
Sullenberger: First, review your role in the military and evaluate how that experience transitions to the civilian world. Jobs in the fields of construction, medicine and human resources (HR) make for relatively easy transitions. Transitioning from infantry roles can be more difficult, unless you’re going into the security sector.
As a part of that evaluation, ask yourself if you need further education or certification in the field of work you have chosen. Then, work on your résumé to match your skills and experience to civilian world relevance. The military offers transition training in how to create strong military-to-civilian resumes—don’t miss it! You can also find guidance online (start with a Google search), and HR companies offer professional résumé-writing services, too.
Q: How should Veterans narrow their search?
Sullenberger: Research where those jobs are in the United States and decide where you want to live after discharge. Be sure to check out Navy Federal’s research on best cities to move to after transitioning to civilian life and best cities for military families, Veterans and places to purchase a home. The next step is to start applying for employment in your selected field and region.
Employment websites like CareerBuilder, Monster and Indeed have advanced search functions that enable you to search for job listings in certain locations. USAJobs is great if you’re looking for work with the federal government, and LinkedIn is a great resource, too. Also, remember to tap your own personal network for referral opportunities, and reach out to friends and family members who have successfully managed the transition.
Q: How can Veterans nail the interview process?
Sullenberger: Make sure to buy clothes that are appropriate for the field you want to work in and prepare for interviews you get. Be sure to practice beforehand! Research the top 10 interview questions and get a friend or family member to ask you some of them. During the interview, be personable and not robotic, and be ready for a curveball.
Q: How can Veterans survive—and thrive—in corporate America?
Sullenberger: When you land the job, embrace the corporate culture. Take as much training as possible. If your role requires certifications or your field requires qualifications to grow and advance, ask if your company will reimburse you for the cost of external courses. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn and develop your skills.
Also, find a mentor in the company. Ask your new colleagues if your company has an established mentor program and how to participate in it. If it doesn’t, ask your supervisor if they would recommend people who might make good mentors. Outside organizations also provide mentor guidance, but it’s up to you to find the organization that matches your needs.
Lastly, have fun, and don’t forget: Military experience is well sought after, so use your experience to your advantage!
Navy Federal proudly hires military Veterans and their spouses, and works with organizations that help military members find new careers.
Author Bio: Allison Stevens is a writer, editor and communications professional who specializes in strategic storytelling. A member of Navy Federal’s Corporate Communications team, Allison tells and shares stories about members who achieve their goals with the help of Navy Federal’s products and services and supports the team’s external communications and media relations initiatives. A former reporter, she holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a master’s degree in journalism.
This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.