Soldiering OnIf members of the military could risk their lives for her, Emily King '87 figured she could do something for them. King quit her job five years ago as an internal consultant and coach at Booz Allen Hamilton to devote her energy and skills to former service members.
She tapped her personal savings and retirement funds to launch Military Transitions, a resource that helps private sector companies develop recruiting strategies and programs focused on veterans. “I spent ten years making lots of money inside a big company, but I didn't feel like my work had personal meaning,” she said.
At a time when one million men and women are leaving the military to enter the civilian work force, King, of the Washington, D.C., area, has emerged as a nationally recognized expert on the transition experience. Thanks to an increasing demand for her services, her risky change in career course has begun to yield dividends. The American Management Association recently published her first book, Field Tested: Recruiting, Managing and Retaining Veterans ($29.95), and The Buller Group, an international recruiting and consulting firm, in January acquired Military Transitions, retaining King as its vice president of military transitions. “It just so happens that the forces in the universe are conspiring to fix this problem now, but I have been working on it for fifteen years,” King said.
In her role as an organizational development consultant, King conceived and designed the first military transition program about twelve years ago for a large defense contracting firm. With her curiosity piqued, she wrote her organizational development master's thesis at Johns Hopkins University about the differences between military and civilian leadership. Hearing the stories of service personnel moved her to become more deeply involved in their civilian employment issues.
Even though many veterans coming home today are young and inexperienced outside the military, “they come with a set of skills most employers want,” King said. “They are resourceful team players who have a spirit of service, know how to execute a job under stress, and appreciate what employers are able to do for them.”
Yet many employers continue to stereotype veterans as rigid, under-educated, and prone to symptoms from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). King uses a variety of resources, including her book, an audio program for veterans, and online tools such as social media networks and her blog, to dispel the myths and enlighten employers about the value of hiring former service members. “CEOs have made a genuine commitment to employ veterans, but their front-line managers need to know how to deliver on that commitment with programs—based on an understanding of the differences between military and corporate environments—that retain veterans and maximize their value.”
King credits Kenyon for “teaching me the single most valuable professional skill I have—the ability to write,” she said. She recently was named the individual recipient of the 2012 Winds of Change diversity award given by the Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity, the largest diversity and inclusion conference in the world. “I started this interest in the military as a business concept, but it quickly became a personal mission to help people who put their lives on the line every day for a pittance.”