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An Interview with a Veteran: Integrating Veterans into the Workforce

Even in a growing job market, it can be hard for talented candidates to find work, and great employers to fill their open positions. It can be an especially daunting problem for the veterans looking to join the private sector and for employers trying to understand the unique challenges that veterans face after leaving the military.

That is why the SHRM Foundation wants to help. Similar to how SHRM is dedicated to “Serving the needs of HR Professionals and advancing the practice of human resource management”, the vision of the SHRM Foundation is “Empowered HR professionals building inclusive organizations where all employees thrive and organizations achieve success”. Helping employees thrive in inclusive environments couldn’t be more relevant these days as diversity & Inclusion top a lot of HR Leaders lists of concern.

For 2018, the SHRM Foundation inclusion initiative is “Integrating and Engaging Veterans in the Workforce”. Here at BSHRM, we thought that one of the best ways to highlight the issue of veterans in the workforce would be to introduce you to one of our BSHRM members and a Marine Corp Veteran: Albert “Uri” Nystrom.

Uri as a young Marine.
Uri today as an HR Professional

Uri is the People Specialist for AllSouth Appliance and served in the Marine Corps from 2001-2005. These days he oversees all the HR functions for a rapidly growing company with locations in AL & TN, but while serving he was a Nuclear Biological Defense Specialist. Uri graduated from the University of South Alabama with a BS in Business Administration, majoring in Human Resources Management.



Below, Uri gives us his perspective on the issues that veterans face when leaving the military and moving into the private sector.

Q. What did you find was the hardest part in starting your HR career?

A. I had a huge challenge starting my HR career. I graduated in 2008 and at the time the economy was horrible. Finding any job was a challenge much less one in my field. I had experience but my only real job was in the Marines and it’s hard to convince employers that my military experience translates well into an office job. I spent the next seven years managing a restaurant before finally getting my first real HR job.

Q. What was the greatest challenge in transitioning from the military to the private sector?

A. I think I was very lucky when I transitioned into the private sector. There were a lot of programs that I took advantage of before and after I transitioned out of the military. Unfortunately, many veterans don’t take advantage of them or don’t know about them.

Q. How do you feel your time in the military uniquely prepared you to work in HR or the private sector?

A. In the military I learned to not make excuses and to not give up. It’s easy to abandon something at the first sign of adversity, but when you stick with it you often find that the problems you face are not as insurmountable as they seem. In the Marines our primary task was always mission accomplishment.

Q. What is something you wish employers, and HR professionals in particular, knew about hiring veterans? What can they do better?

A. It can be very easy to over generalize veterans. All types of people join the military for different reasons and they do very different things while in the military. The military works very similar to any business. Many jobs in the military have very close similarities with civilian jobs. If you actually take the time to look at what a veteran did in the military you might be surprised. I spent far more time making PowerPoints in the Marines than I ever did shooting guns.

Q. What advice would you give to veterans looking to make the transition to employment in the private sector?

A. Starting your career in the private sector after serving in the military can sometimes feel like you’re taking a huge step back. Don’t be discouraged if you have to take an entry level job in your field, just make the best of the opportunities that you are given. Even if hiring managers can’t see your value, you will find that your military experience will give you an edge over your peers who did not serve.

Q. Anything else you wish to share?

A. Veterans and transitioning service members can visit the Department of Veteran Affairs for transition assistance programs that the VA offers.

Thank you Uri for taking the time to give us great insight into the challenges of integrating into the workforce!

To learn more about what the SHRM Foundation is doing to integrate veterans into the workforce and to have access to an amazing amount of employer resources, please visit the SHRM Foundation site. If you want to help the SHRM Foundation in its goal of making a measurable impact on the hiring and retention of military veterans, as well as all the other good work it does, please be sure to Donate Now as well! All donations of $30 or more automatically makes you a member of Team Empower! Don’t forget to mention Birmingham SHRM as your chapter as well!

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