Craig Robbins did several jobs while he was deployed to Afghanistan as a second lieutenant in the Illinois National Guard.
After eight months as a combat support adviser, he came home in the spring of 2011 to navigate what many veterans find to be an equally hostile environment – the corporate hiring system.
“I found the process to be fairly challenging,” said Robbins, 29, a University of Iowa graduate who now lives in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park.
Fortunately, he discovered a mentoring and placement program offered free to veterans by Prositions Inc., a West Des Moines-based career transition firm. Rather than landing a position with one of the thousands of companies in Prositions’ national database, though, Robbins was hired as a career strategist for its ProVeterans program.
Robbins is one of 43 veterans who have participated in ProVeterans since its launch a year ago, said Frank Russell, CEO of Prositions. Of those, 11 have landed positions. Another 22 who have enrolled are on hold, mostly to complete more schooling, and the rest are still looking for employment. The latest person to sign up recently is finishing a special tour in Iraq. “We’re helping him polish his resume so he’ll be ready when he comes back in 30 days,” Russell said.
Robbins learned after enrolling in ProVeterans that his resumes were likely being rejected by human resources departments’ document tracking systems, which are set to kick out resumes with any gaps in work history. And those many hats he wore – in addition to combat support, he also served in linguistic and public affairs roles – made it difficult for employers to believe that a 20-something had really handled all of those responsibilities.
Now, as a career strategist, Robbins helps veterans to effectively convey their skills to employers.
“It really comes down to the research,” he said. “I have them look very specifically at what skills and character traits that are going to apply to the very specific job they are applying for. For this job, how are you going to articulate those skills to the hiring manager?” Additionally, those skills must be translated from military jargon into terms business people will understand.
With bachelor’s and master’s degrees under his belt plus a graduate certificate in entrepreneurship, Robbins now is pursuing an online graduate certificate program in technology and has just started his own business: consulting and sales in the unmanned vehicle systems (also known as drones) industry.
“My life would be very different if I hadn’t received this coaching,” he said. “I think this generation is going to see veterans at the forefront of the entrepreneurial movement.”