The job hunt is different for veterans. BestCompaniesAZ caught up with Patrick Fitzhugh from USAA who has made the transition from military to civilian work. Patrick hopes his story helps others who are transitioning out soon or have done so recently.
What was the job hunt like for you as a veteran?
In short, very difficult. The easiest thing was to fall into a government contracting job. But after deciding to get out of contracting work, I spent months without a job and was turned down time and time again. More frustrating, no one would give me any specific feedback as to why. With my skills and prior level of responsibilities, it just didn’t make sense.
What were the specific challenges you faced in looking for a civilian job?
Creating a resume that made sense to non-military, learning how to limit military speak, checking my ego, finding a good culture fit, and effectively translating my skills into what was desired in the civilian marketplace.
How did you find USAA? What was the hiring process like for you?
I grew up knowing about USAA and was a member well before I could even drive, thanks to my dad who is also a veteran. I knew when moving to a city that had a USAA office that this was the only company that I wanted to work for. From day one, the process was unbelievably smooth and easier than any administrative process the military ever put me through. USAA’s hiring process made me feel appreciated right away when interviewers took a genuine interest in my military background and thanked me for my service. It was very impressive with how much they incorporate the military into every phase of training.
Did you experience anything different during the hiring process at USAA, as compared to other companies? If so, what and/or how?
At other companies, military service is just a checkmark on a hiring form. All the way through training and to this day, I have people reaching out to me for my perspective as a veteran.
What has it been like for you working at USAA?
The transition from military and government to a corporate culture like USAA is never going to be easy, but I think this was the healthiest place it could have happened for me. USAA has not tried to replace my leadership background and experiences, but instead has built on them.
How have your military skills and experience transferred to a civilian career?
I worked as an instructor in a very specialized, small, and high stress environment, so public speaking, adapting to change quickly, and high stress situations have never slowed me down. It turns out that these are highly desired skills that don’t come naturally to most people in the civilian workforce. As a veteran, you can also bring a culturally diverse perspective to most situations, and finding an environment that embraces this perspective has been key to my success.
How have you felt supported by your employer?
USAA has an amazing veterans’ organization that I am actively involved in. It creates a platform and network for the veterans and family of military members to come together. USAA keep us true to our mission, and focused on the reality of what our veterans go through. Outside of this, the communications, events, and recognition of military birthdays and events create one of the most supporting military cultures that I’ve found outside of the military itself.
What advice would you give to those who are about to separate from the military?
Be proactive, and don’t expect someone to instantly want to hire you because of your veteran status, or extensive resume. Hire a professional to put your resume together, and do your research on how to translate your military experience into terms the company will understand. Finally, look at the culture of the organization above the position or title. Your first job or career out of the military will be short lived if it’s not a good cultural fit for you, regardless of pay and title.
What advice would you give employers about hiring veterans?
Learn that veterans bring an infinitely diverse range of experiences, perspectives, skills, and strengths to the marketplace. They won’t always know how to translate this into your language, so learn what to ask and how to speak some of their language. Otherwise you run the risk of passing up on some of the best talent out there. With a focus on diversity in the workplace, veterans offer a distinctly unique set of values and perspective than you will find anywhere else outside the military community, and your company will only be stronger for tapping into it.
Meet hiring representatives from USAA’s Phoenix campus at the BestCompaniesAZ 5th Annual Military Career Event, March 7. Open to all veterans, transitioning military, spouses and significant others who are looking for a career with an employer that values the service of our military members and their families! Get more information and register here.
Patrick Fitzhugh is an insurance manager in Member Solutions Department supporting after hour employees and that particular book of business. Patrick joined USAA in March of 2011 as a frontline servicing agent and has worked in several areas within insurance area to include Insurance Servicing, Deposit Servicing, and New Member Solutions. He currently supports a USAA Diversity Business Group called Elevate as a core team member, a Veterans Network Employee Resource Group called VETNet, and has been heavily involved with Learn 2 Lead (supporting frontline employees to advancement to leadership). He is a graduate of the 1st cohort of the Drive 2 Director program.
Patrick is third generation military, and entered the United States Air Force as a Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) Specialist. As a veteran, Patrick worked for the Department of Defense and Department of the Army working in support of the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency as a SME in personnel recovery and rescue.