Good Morning Reddit!

I'm Bobby Wise, a US Army veteran and a career coach for Veterans Forward at the National Abe Network. Our organization is a non-profit workforce development agency committed to helping vets conduct a more effective job search.

Today I'll be marching 22 miles along Chicago's lakefront with hundreds of other vets to honor the fallen and raise awareness about the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day. Since that gives me about eight hours to kill, I'll also be here all day answering your questions about the job market, veterans transition, and the civilian-military divide. AMA!


EDIT: Well, it's not a proper ruck match without a little rain. I'll start answering again after the rain lets up and my touch screen becomes a bit more effective.

EDIT 2: Getting into the home stretch and the sweat is getting into my eyes pretty good. I'll be answering the rest of your questions from my laptop at home. Thanks for all the great comments and I look forward to working with everyone who reached out to me in private messages. Enjoy your weekend!

Comments: 598 • Responses: 30  • Date: 

KamuiT103 karma

Good morning!

As a fellow veteran, I've seen a lot of my buddies getting out and not taking advantage of their GI Bill. Why do you think this is? I've tried talking to a few of them and they say they don't know what to major in and I guess this is a viable response. Do you have any further ideas/explanations that I can think on to aid my brothers and sisters?

BobEWise110 karma

My argument for using the GI Bill despite not having solid career plans is to give yourself for years to build a professional network and figure out what you really do want to do. That stipend plus a p/t job goes a long way while figuring out your future.

I learned a lot about political science while attending UIC, but not from the classes. I learned from volunteering on campaigns and getting to know professionals in the field who wanted to bring my skills into their organization when I graduated. In fact volunteering with a group called Leave No Veteran Behind led to my current job with Veterans Forward.

roythejewboy84 karma

Since you're a veteran yourself, I must ask, how did you find yourself in the position where you're the one who's helping others? I mean, it is really really good on your behalf sir, and definitely requires willpower. What brought you the motivation, is it the empathy? I'm just wondering!

BobEWise129 karma

When I was getting ready to end my active duty contract a platoon sergeant in my company asked why I wanted to get out rather than take the promotion they were offering me. My response was that there would always be enough quality leadership in the Army, especially in my company where there were at least three guys junior to me who were ready to take on leadership responsibilities. I knew the civilian world was a lot more fluid and the structure that encouraged leadership and mentorship could only be created by qualified folks taking initiative. For lack of a better term I wanted to be a civilian NCO. At the time I thought that would lead me into education as a school teacher. I'm pretty satisfied where is led so far.

Thanks for asking!

iaalaughlin57 karma

My response was that there would always be enough quality leadership in the Army

Apparently this has changed since you got out.

Do you focus in any particular industries?

BobEWise18 karma

Any and everything.shot me a message in pm if you'd like specific advice!

lemskee31 karma

I am currently transitioning out of the Air Force. Are there any general tips you could give for getting civilian employment?

BobEWise48 karma

I'll echo what's been said about the GI Bill, but also stress the importance of building up a professional network. I don't know about you, but when I was in the Army the closest I got to a job interview was a promotion board and that wasn't an interview. That was the large, angry men with bad haircuts giving me the third degree. Then they would chuckle as I walked out the door because o didn't pass the board because I knew the max effective range of an M-240 (1100 meters) or the name of the eagle on the 101st Airborne Division's patch (Old Abe). I passed because I showed that I could handle the stress and my NCO support channel vouched for me.

That's what your professional network needs to be. They're the advocates, mentors, and leaders who are going to help you look out for your best interests and grow as an individual.

When you get out, take the opportunity to go to school and get involved in your community. I know a lot of folks will tell you to major in something that will make you more employable, but I know guys who've majored in philosophy and English lit and they've found success by getting outside their comfort zone and developing a professional network.

It won't matter what you major in, if you treat school as your 9-5 job and don't use it as an opportunity to make yourself a known candidate it will be a waste. As my boss likes to say, it's not what you know OR who you know. It's who knows you.

Thanks for asking!

slinginbrew24 karma

What would you say is the best way for civilians to help support veterans? Are there any specific charities you would recommend, versus ones you'd avoid like the plague?

Twisky41 karma

Recommend: Fisher House

Avoid like the plague: Wounded Warrior Project

BobEWise22 karma

I'm holding out hope for WWP. They're getting new leadership, so we'll see. Agree, Fisher House is great!

BobEWise12 karma

That's an interesting question. I'll answer the same way I answer my clients about resumes. The right one is the one that works. Get to know am agency before donating. Find out what they do and maybe give a little of your time first.

And charities aren't the only way to support vets. Just get to know the vets in your life and offer an ear to hear out their concerns. Make them a part of your community. That's the best thing that can help transition.

Thanks for asking!

Yerok-The-Warrior21 karma

Have you heard of the Veterans Career Transition Program offered by Syracuse University? For those looking to study for industry certifications, this offers a free online course of study.

BobEWise12 karma

Great program for post 9/11 vets! I recommend it especially for our clients seeking program management careers seeking a PMP.

datChef14 karma

So what do you suggest for a young PFC who has about a year left and can't decide to reenlist or not? Ive only been at the one duty station and ive been deployed almost the whole time i was there. All i ever hear about is How much the army varies from station to station, and i don't wanna reenlist if it is gonna continue to suck.

BobEWise25 karma

Get out and use your GI Bill to get a taste of civilian life. You're still young enough to go back in on your own terms of your decide you prefer the military.

turymtz13 karma

Do you think the general disdain for civilians that military personnel have (I never understood why) affects their ability to assimilate to civilian life after they get out of the military?

BobEWise13 karma

I'll echo the comment from /u/sybban. I've seen more negative attitudes about vets from vets than from the civilian community. I think there's a lot to be said for Sebastian Junger's comments earlier this week.

turymtz4 karma

Just to be clear, it's military service member disdain FOR civilians, not the other way around.

BobEWise4 karma

Ahh, yeah, that's a whole nuther bucket of goo.

VeteranBob12 karma

Hi Bobby, Bob here...Navy Veteran.

Does your organization work with the Call of Duty Endowment in any way? You should definitely check them out as Activision-Blizzard provides funds to organizations such as yours.

BobEWise8 karma

CODE is fantastic! Also one of the most stringent application processes out there. Veterans Forward was recognized by then last year and they audited everything with a fine tooth comb. Best in the business. If you find an organization with a CODE endorsement they are the real deal.

hawkeye80711 karma

What is the biggest problems in your opinion that civilian employers don't really "get" about hiring veterans?

And conversely, what are some of the more common issues that veterans don't get about transitioning into world of civilian employment?

Thanks for doing the AMA and have a safe march.

BobEWise15 karma

Civilian side: Vets are a diverse group. We don't all look the same or think the same and we're not all trigger pullers who need to be security guards. Leader also isn't synonymous with officer. There are 24 year old corporals who've been responsible for 11 subordinates. What we all do have in common is a drive to succeed.

Veteran side: We're all individuals and there's nothing wrong with wanting to be different. You've got ambitions "outside your lane"? Go for it. You own your destiny now. Don't get pigeon holed. Also, don't be put off by others doing things a different way. Get outside your confort zone and meet them half way.

Thanks for the support!

BobEWise2 karma

Civilian side: Vets are a diverse group. We don't all look the same or think the same and we're not all trigger pullers who need to be security guards. Leader also isn't synonymous with officer. There are 24 year old corporals who've been responsible for 11 subordinates. What we all do have in common is a drive to succeed.

Veteran side: We're all individuals and there's nothing wrong with wanting to be different. You've got ambitions "outside your lane"? Go for it. You own your destiny now. Don't get pigeon holed. Also, don't be put off by others doing things a different way. Get outside your confort zone and meet them half way.

Thanks for the support!

Futurebrain8 karma

Hey there! Brilliant timing, Im transitioning from the Army right now actually! My terminal leave has about 25 days left, anyways, my big worry and a source of anxiety right now is health insurance. More specifically: How long am I covered? When I stop being covered by the Army, how long do I have before I have to get my own health insurance under the affordable care act? And why is it so god damned expensive, the cheapest plan I saw waaslike 190 a month for an absolute shit plan.

BobEWise8 karma

I'm going to do some research before answering this one to make sure my info is up to date.

Dvanpat7 karma

I appreciate all of your hard work, and I know those vets do. What is the most common field you try to transition them into?

BobEWise13 karma

There is no one field that dominates. There are hundreds of career fowls in the military and thousands of jobs within those specialties. Furthermore a lot of vets don't want to do what they did. Career coaching has very little in common worth my job in the Army as a Blackhawk crew chief.

There are some go to employers in fields like hospitality and driving for folks who are still working out their career goals or just need a paycheck. Still, we've also helped place financial planners and GIS professionals.

A favorite program at National Able is the IT Career Lab. It's a 4 month course that let's certified training and testing for Cisco and Microsoft certs as well as placement assistance on the back end.

TLDR: Vets wind up doing everything.

Thanks for asking!

jame_retief_10 karma

hundreds of career fowls in the military

There are a lot of shitbirds . . .

BobEWise6 karma

Y'know what? I'm leaving it. Autocorrect is good for a chuckle.

robmox5 karma

Hey Bobby! I'm a US Navy veteran myself, and after 6 years of service I decided it was time for a change. I've been out for three years and I'm currently using my GI Bill to get my masters. The issue I've been facing is finding a job in the field that I study. I have a BA in Screenwriting and I'm currently pursuing my MFA in screenwriting. I've done a boat load of research and almost every large television network has a veterans hiring initiative (usually led by Hire Heroes USA), but it's always for jobs like trucker or someone moving heavy shit. Do you know of any veteran hiring initiatives in the entertainment industry? Or, is there any advice you could give me for finding an entry level job in my field? I do have a meeting today, but it's for a position they already filled, probably with some rich guys nephew.

BobEWise5 karma

I do, but it's on my laptop. I'll get that to you later. I'm also working with a couple clients in a similar boat. I'll put you in touch!

MISTERgrams5 karma

Have you helped Army public affairs officers? If so, what kind of jobs did they end up with? Thanks brother

BobEWise6 karma

My boss is actually not only a retired public affairs CSM, but also my former client! Message me and I'll put you in touch with him.

Bjordun4 karma

Hey Op! Just a quick question, but how can those of us ordinary citizens who have no prior military service help these guys and gals transition back into normal life and society? These veterans do so much for us and I would love to know a way I or anyone could help them make a smooth transition back into the fold. Thanks!

BobEWise2 karma

Hey Bjordun!

If you'd like to get active with your local vets community consider joining your local VSO post as a booster or supporter. More modern organizations looking for civilian allies are and If you're in the Chicago area, let's make an appointment to show you around our operation! We hold job search workshops at least once a month and we're always open to bringing in volunteers to help coach.

NO_AI3 karma

Hi Bob, I have a couple of questions:

  1. From your experience, what was your most difficult obstacle during your transition from soldier to civilian, that you think others should be made aware of?
  2. What from your current perspective was the most obvious issue that you could have been side stepped dealing with making life easier and having no major change of out come on you current life.

Well good luck bud.

BobEWise5 karma

I'll answer both questions like this: get a therapist. I don't mean to fuel the misconception that vets ate all nuts, but it helps so much having someone to talk to who is familiar with both military and civilian cultures who is also outside your social circle. That separation has really helped me open up about what has been troubling me about my transition and I wish I had done so from day one. Everyone should treat their mental health like their physical health. No one thinks twice about having a GP or dentist they go to one or twice a year. Treat your mental health with the same respect.

fancyhatman183 karma

What would you suggest is the best resource for finding jobs based on the skills you have in your mos/afsc etc?

BobEWise3 karma

For direct translations, /u/He11sToRm is right. Pavement agencies are the best if you just want to do what you were doing. Be advised you might have to be flexible about location.

Zealotry3 karma

Do you find service members from across the spectrum of jobs coming to you for help (i.e. everyone from mechanic all the way to things like Intel analyst). Or is it mostly members with military jobs that don't clearly translate to civilian jobs such as air to air refueling boom operator?

BobEWise1 karma

A little of everything.

AsherPleeeease3 karma

22 suicides a day? How do you know this? It'd great what you're doing but I'm just interested

BobEWise2 karma

As /u/freshpondindian16 said, it's from a VA study. I'll be the first to admit that figure should be taken with a grain of salt as it's based on death certificates in 21 states and there are a lot of ways that sort of study can go wrong. Regardless, it's a measure of how vets fare compared to the rest of the public and a statement of how important veteran transition is. Vets who come home to a robust support network have much better outcomes. Employment and connecting with fellow vets is a huge part of that.

Thanks for your question!

chizzysmalls2 karma

First, thank you for all you do. It's truly amazing

Second, what are your thoughts on veterans using marijuana to treat ptsd? I know there's a big divide on it

BobEWise2 karma

I'll leave those decisions up to specific healthcare professionals. Personally, I'm all in favor of anything that works. If that route is medication, it needs to be carefully dosed and monitored by both the patient and their healthcare provider. I'm more concerned with the attitude that any medication is a panacea than I am with any given medical treatment strategy.

Thanks for asking!

Pfheonix2 karma

As a civilian, I often hear about the difference between what the military says about skills being learned during enlistment being transferable to civilian jobs and friends' experiences or experiences I've read of trouble finding a job. Do you tend to find that those stories are the exceptions, or is there something that you help your clients do or feel that many might not?

BobEWise2 karma

There are certain job skills that translate to the civilian economy and in the last few years the various local, state, and federal bureaucracies have gotten a lot better about communicating with each other and determining what should carry over and which shouldn't. What really fills the loopholes are employers who are willing to learn what military training actually means and how it applies to their workplace and mission. When employers are willing to do that, they're more likely to take a chance on hiring a vet who might still need to earn civilian certs for a job they performed for years in the service. Employer education is a big part of what we do at Veterans Forward, but it requires constant effort.

Thanks for the question. Hope my answer is sufficient, if belated!

sarphinius2 karma

Do you know this guy?

Met him last year, operating in the SW burbs (Lemont/Naperville), great guy. I think you two could do a lot of good together.

God bless!

BobEWise2 karma

I'll reach out. Thanks! I'll probably need some in about 15 miles.

Ingram25252 karma

What are your feelings on private military contractors in general, and their use in combat in particular?

BobEWise7 karma

As someone who has seen a combat deployment and is still unpacking some issues from that, I want to see as little combat in the world as possible. Unfortunately, PMCs make it much easier for leaders to engage in combat ops outside public scrutiny. It's a tough subject because I've got some very good friends still living that life in Afghanistan. To make a long story short, there are no easy answers and few good answers.

ScoobsFXT1 karma

Thanks for your service and dedication to Vets!

What's the biggest barrier you see to vets landing decent jobs once they've separated?

BobEWise12 karma

The most common obstacle I see is a failure to understand how the civilian job market works. During our years in the military, S1 (military speak for HR) told us what our next job would be. There was a rubric that took into account our experience and training and decided what role would be best for the military and, to a lesser extent, for us.

As civilians we've got to learn how to find opportunities for ourselves. We also have to figure out a sense of self-actualization. We have to find something to be motivated about once that structure goes away. That's where having a solid network comes in handy.

Thanks for asking!

CuckerBull1 karma

Any advice on getting along on college campuses? As soon as the class finds out I am a vet their demeanor changes and they get weird. I feel very unwelcome and my ideas are scorned by kids with absolutely zero life experience. It's incredibly frustrating and I find myself despising them.

BobEWise2 karma

Sorry to hear about your experience. I recommend you go into class with a lot of patience and understand that your classmates do lack the experience you have. But you can meet them halfway and serve as a valuable mentor. Lead by example and listen before you speak. If you know where they ate coming from as individuals you can clear up a lot of misconceptions. Find a supaport network too. University of Illinois at Chicago was great for that. Hundreds of student vets and a very active SVA chapter.

frodovahkiin-2 karma

Why are you using the 22 suicides a day line, when it's simply not accurate?

BobEWise21 karma

So, the 22 a day stat is based on a VA study in 2012. That study examined death certificates in 21 states and included non-combat vets and vets who served in all eras. While 22 a day is based heavily on statistical projections the conclusion remains that veteran suicide rates are up to 50% higher than among our civilian counterparts. 22 a day is a method of putting that into context in the hopes that we can improve care for our brothers and sisters when we come home.

Hope that gives you a sense of where I'm coming from, at least.

Thanks for asking!