When she transitioned from the Army into the private sector, Karen Drosky had to change how she described her previous work experience. Telling would-be employers that she had been an “interrogator” seemed to surprise – and sometimes scare – people who were interviewing her. But highlighting the skills she’d mastered in her role worked wonders.
“It was tough to leave a career in the service, but I was relieved to find that my skills transferred into the tech space and that there were a lot of great opportunities out there,” the HR senior director says. “Once I understood how to apply the training I’d received in the Army and started to emphasize active listening, my ability to read people, and the trainings I’d conducted, I found that many companies had immediate needs for expertise like mine.”
According to the “Profile of the Military Community” report *, in 2017, nearly 175,000 service members left the military. Yet for those who want to transition from military-specific work to a civilian work culture, making the move can be difficult. Even with in-demand skills, many former service members are unsure how to best prepare and market themselves for a new career.
That’s where companies like Breakline come in. Founded by Bethany Coates in 2016, Breakline seeks to help talented veterans transition into technology roles at well-known companies across the U.S.
More than 40 of Breakline’s most recent cohort of student-veterans and military spouses visited ServiceNow on Jan. 30 for an interactive session with ServiceNow President and CEO John Donahoe, Drosky, and former service members-turned-ServiceNow employees Dean Robison and Javier Chen.
“I am so grateful for everything I gained while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps,” said Robison, who runs ServiceNow’s 24/7 customer support organization. “But when it came time to put my skills to use in a new way outside the military, I had to learn how to successfully pivot into different cultures and ways of working. I’m fortunate to have had strong mentors along the way, and I’m glad ServiceNow can help support an incredibly talented and deserving group of people find their next challenge.”
Adam Cave, U.S. Army veteran and Breakline student, agrees. “I spent 14 years as a linguist in the Army and it’s been eye-opening to see how welcoming the tech sector is to veterans. They really value our leadership experience, and I’m excited and honored to begin working in this challenging environment with my new teammates.”
More than 100 veterans and former service members in many countries work at ServiceNow, in a variety of roles. During the event last Wednesday afternoon, Donahoe thanked the veterans in attendance and shared a core piece of advice: “Be a continuous learner. The tech industry has plenty of people who think they know it all. But a growth mindset and a hunger to keep learning will not only keep your career moving ahead, but also help you personally as well.”
Drosky encouraged attendees to use their resume to tell a story about their experience, and offered advice for exploring the culture of a potential employer. “Military veterans are not static in their professional experiences, so if your resume can convey a story line of how you transitioned from one role to the next in the service, recruiters will take notice,” she said. “At ServiceNow, we look for people who are ‘additive’ to our company. You’ll hear a lot about culture ‘fit,’ but we want diversity of thought and perspective, and so we find out where we’re lacking a particular view or set of ideas, and then look for people who can help round us out.”
Robison shared that sentiment and gave an additional tip. “Sure, a company is interviewing you. But more important is that you interview the company. Don’t leave it up to them. Take control of what you’re looking for, and make sure they show you what they can add to your life and skillset.”