They come from different branches of the military and varied backgrounds, but many of them face a similar challenge: transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce. For Viasat, veterans are an important and significant part of the workforce, which is why the company hosts transition workshops aimed at smoothing that road.
“Viasat is committed to supporting the military community,” said Nancy Kleefisch, social impact leader for the company’s military programs. “One of the reasons the workshop is so successful is due to the more than 40 Viasat employees who take the time to help put it on.”
The most recent workshop, held June 14 at Viasat’s Carlsbad, CA headquarters, was the sixth such event, with the goal of providing military, military spouses and veterans with the tools and skills they need to help them successfully make the transition.
“We’re trying to prepare you to build on what you’ve done and create the second chapter of your lives,” said Ken Peterman, president of the company’s Government Systems division, in his welcome to the 53 attendees. “We want you to find what your passion is and what you want to do, then go continue to do great things.”
The day is filled with speakers and interactive sessions. Among other things, attendees build or learn to leverage their LinkedIn accounts; revamp their resumes; attend a “Strengths Finder” workshop; learn how to negotiate and accept a job offer; go through mock interviews with Viasat recruiters; and fine-tune their networking skills.
Transitioning from the military to corporate world is full of challenges, and few know this better than Adrian Haskamp, who joined the U.S. Marines immediately after graduating high school and is now a senior project manager at Viasat.
“When I first got out, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Haskamp told the attendees. “I didn’t know where I fit. But I learned that you don’t have to be defined by your past.”
A Marine’s story
For one of this year’s attendees, defining himself in the present means looking at the bigger picture while still focusing on the little things. Bruce Long, who served as a military police officer for 10 years and as a recruiter for the U.S. Marines for the past four, knows what he wants when he transitions out of the Marine Corps this September.
“I want to be a successful entrepreneur,” Long said.
With a degree in organizational management from the University of Louisville and an MBA from the University of Phoenix, Long has a good base for his goal – but he isn’t stopping there. He recently applied to UCLA to pursue a Ph.D. in business management.
For Long, the biggest challenge that comes with transitioning into the civilian world is adapting to its more subtle differences.
“A big barrier has been readjusting my vocabulary from acronyms and military terminology to more acceptable terms. The jargon – it’s different.” Long said. “And smiling more. That’s something I have to remind myself to do more of. I’m a happy guy, but now I have to learn to relax a bit. When I’m relaxed, I smile more.”
Long participated in the workshop to get a well-rounded snapshot of a corporate environment and sharpen valuable skills. “I wanted to get a hands-on experience witnessing the work culture, networking opportunities, and learning what expectations a company like Viasat has.”
A military wife’s challenge
While many attendees are focused on transitioning out of the lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to, others are just transitioning in, like military wife Haley Rea.
Rea, who recently graduated from Cal State San Marcos, was planning on moving to Fort Hood, TX with her spouse – who joined the Army in October – when plans changed.
“He did his boot camp, got stationed in Texas, and I was planning on moving there later this month, but as soon as he got there, he found out he was being deployed,” she said.
Rea graduated with a communications degree and hopes to one day work in public relations or human resources, but she’s not sure how best to look for a job in her current situation.
“I’m just out of school, and I’m in the beginning stages of everything,” she said. “Especially with this new transition into military life, the job search is hard because nothing is stable.”
For now, Rea is looking to stay in San Diego with her mother while her husband is deployed. She attended the workshop to learn the strategies necessary to enter the professional field while living in a world constantly subject to change.
“This is all so new to me. It’s really helpful to learn better ways to find opportunities and build a career that will be beneficial to me while I’m in this lifestyle,” Rea said. “And for me to be able to share the information I’ve learned with my husband once he transitions out will be really great. I’ll be able to give him tips on interviews, resumes, LinkedIn – everything.”
Those who attended the workshop, like Long and Rea, were able to meet one another and network at the Viasat-sponsored happy hour and Army birthday celebration at the end of the day. The group, along with other members of Viasat, gathered to sing “The Army Song,” share cake and conversation, and honor those who serve.
The military, military spouses and veterans left the day with a few more tools in their bags to tackle the transition and embark on the new chapter of their lives.
“Yes, transition is difficult and can be scary – it’s dealing with the unknown,” Haskamp told the group. “But in your line of work, you’re used to dealing with the unknown. And that’s why you came today. Preparing now for the future. That’s the first step.”