Your Next Move

A look at one of our changemaking clients, San Diego Office of Military & Veterans Affairs

by Gail Allyn Short

The U.S. Department of Labor reports that 200,000 people leave U.S. military service every year. Many are left to ask, “What’s next?”

“When you’re in the military, you’re in a community, an ecosystem, with defined customs, traditions and a culture that’s not necessarily like the civilian world,” says Maurice Wilson, president and executive director of the nonprofit National Veterans Transition Services.

The civilian world requires you to direct your own affairs—making decisions, for example, on buying a home or choosing a career, Wilson says. Moreover, 86% of transitioning service members polled say they want careers different from the jobs they held in the military.

To help, the NVTS operates a program called the REBOOT Workshop that supports service members, veterans and their families as they look forward to post-military life.

“REBOOT is the reverse of boot camp. It helps people make that psycho-social transition. That’s not as simple as just taking off the uniform and now you’re a civilian,” says Wilson. “It doesn’t work like that.”

During the first week of REBOOT, facilitators show participants how to build new identities outside of the military, he says.

“The second week, we help them find their purpose and passions,” Wilson says.

To do all that, REBOOT uses a curriculum that takes participants through several modules that promote self-efficacy and self-direction and explains the mind’s decision-making process.

During week three, facilitators assist participants in discovering their “career DNA” using an AI-powered job-matching tool that lists more than 650 competencies. They also use psychometrics to identify participants’ psychological characteristics.

With the data, participants review all possible career options, and REBOOT works with 2,500 employment partners, Wilson says.

One REBOOT grad, a Navy chief, pivoted from air traffic controller to become a facilities manager in San Diego.

“He’s now making $80,000 a year,” Wilson says.

The workshop classes even helped him and his wife open lines of communication to heal their marriage, he says.

Every year, 360 people participate in REBOOT, and Wilson says he has met veterans who lament the time and money they wasted because they did not participate in a REBOOT transition program.

But that is not the job of the military or the VA, he says. “It’s the job of the community to help these individuals find their way back home.”

Read the full publication here.

Related: Keeping Veterans Healthy