The transition from active duty to civilian life can be filled with countless roadblocks, and many veterans find it challenging to secure a career that fulfills their needs and ambitions, which often result in periods of joblessness and uncertainty.
While the U.S. Department of Labor reports veteran unemployment reached a 10-year low of 3.4 percent, underemployment continues to plague many veterans. In fact, a Career Builder study shows 22 percent of veterans are underpaid, or underworked.
The military provides endless learning opportunities that veterans can bring into a civilian career profession. Although there is no distinct path, higher education can be a vehicle for these veterans to take command of their future. For three veterans, this transition led them to Washington University in St. Louis to learn how their unique skills can be an asset in the board room.
SECURING A SECOND CHANCE
Staff Sgt. Eric Maddox joined the United States Army infantry in the spring of 1994, and eventually found himself playing a key role on the elite Delta Force team as an Army interrogator. His job was simple: gain intel from Iraqi prisoners on where to locate Saddam Hussein. In fact, the team was successful due, in part, to Maddox reshaping the U.S interrogation system, which had only a four percent success rate at the time. Rather than intimidation, he focused the new techniques on collaboration, communication and negotiation.
Maddox later found a new way to integrate these same techniques into the business world. After graduating from Washington University’s Executive MBA (EMBA) program in 2016, he combined his educational and military experiences to become a motivational and keynote speaker. He now tailors his speeches to emerging business trends he mastered in the classroom, and travels around the nation teaching negotiations, elicitations and empathy-based learning to business leaders.
“The EMBA program really dives into how business works, and helped me to identify connections between the military and corporate world,” said Maddox. “I quickly realized how my experience in the intel world and war zone can directly apply to businesses and private organizations.”
Another 2016 Washington University graduate, Col. Don Halpin, served in the United States Air Force for 20 years. Until 2014, Halpin held a variety of elite positions such as Director of Safety, Commander, Vice Commander, Chief, Political-Military Affairs Officer and Initial Planning Coordinator. He also co-developed the Air Force-leading Aviation Operational Risk Assessment & Management System (Ops RAMS) for the Air Mobility Command, which included the Air Force’s first-ever incorporation of select civilian aviation industry benchmark programs.
After two decades of military success, Halpin decided it was time to pursue his other passion – healthcare innovation. He credits the EMBA program with providing him the tools he needed to turn his love for innovation and helping others into a vibrant career in the healthcare industry. He’s now the Healthcare Systems Engineer at Jump Trading Simulation & Education Center in Peoria, IL, where he supports their innovation, education and research efforts.
“In the military, you’re always looking for ways to become more efficient to provide the highest level of service to your country,” said Halpin. “In healthcare, it’s a similar situation. I love that I’m able to aid in bettering the lives of our patients, and the EMBA played a large part in that.”
A third veteran and Washington University alum, Harry Schmidt, was one of the U.S. Naval Academy’s finest recruits. Following graduation, Schmidt became a Navy pilot flying F/A-18 Hornets. He was selected to attend the prestigious Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) in San Diego, CA and later returned as an instructor. He spent the next 20 years as a professional military officer, serving in various leadership roles in operations, maintenance, and logistics – achieving the rank of lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy and major in the U.S. Air Force. After 20 years of service to our country, Schmidt chose to continue serving his community as a leader in the healthcare industry.
“The EMBA program provided the perfect forum to tie together and finish off the leadership, strategic thinking, and management skills I developed through my years of experience in the military. I would highly recommend the Wash U program to others as an avenue to learn the art and language of business and advance your career to the next level,” said Schmidt.
Today Schmidt leverages the business skills and expertise he learned in the EMBA program as President and CEO of Passavant Area Hospital in Springfield, IL.
Drawing upon their time in the EMBA program, all three veterans were able to merge their military backgrounds to seek new, and diverse experiences. While many veterans have not been as fortunate, Maddox, Halpin and Schmidt tell their story so that future generations can avoid the cycle of unemployment and underemployment that many experience when transitioning into civilian life.