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All About the Resume: USO/Hire Heroes USA Veteran-Turned-Business Coach Touts Workshops

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

By Joseph Andrew Lee 

When a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine gets out of the military and steps into the civilian job market, there’s a severe learning curve.

“Sometimes it seems like they’d almost prefer the more painful experience of learning first-hand, but I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to go that route,” said Ahmad Burse, a retired Army sergeant first class and independent business coach with Entrepreneur’s Source. “This is one of those times when experience really does hurt, and a simple workshop can make all the difference.”

While personal connections are still key, Burse said companies’ move to automated, web-based recruiting efforts mean the resume is “your golden ticket to an interview.”

“Hire Heroes USA knows their stuff. They are experts at helping you market yourself. They’ve been there, done that, and they are here to tell you — I’m here to tell you — that a well-written resume is worth its weight in gold.”

After 23 years as an infantryman, Burse was ready to retire. But he didn’t want his career progression to end. He had a knack for organizational leadership and decided he would finish his master’s degree in organizational leadership and seek out a professional civilian career after leaving the Army. In March 2012, while assigned to Fort Bragg, N.C.’s warrior transition battalion, he was told about the two-day USO/Hire Heroes USA Transition Workshop.

USO/Hire Heroes USA Transition Workshops are a starting point primarily for wounded, ill and injured troops, their spouses and caregivers to integrate them into the civilian workplace. The workshop trainers are a combination of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, former corporate human resources specialists and recruiters and career counselors who provide insights to the troops going through this process.

With a 5-to-1 attendee-to-instructor ratio, these informative workshops complement existing military and government programs, helping troops understand how their military experience translates into the civilian world and teaching them how to present themselves on paper and in person to potential employers. Attendees receive sample resumes of people with similar military occupational specialties to their own to use as templates for building their resumes, and even participate in mock interviews with local employers at the close of the workshop.

“Hire Heroes USA didn’t help me become an organizational leader in one civilian company,” Burse said. “What they did was give me the confidence to know that I could be an organizational leader in any company, and not to pigeonhole myself like so many transitioning military do.

“Just because you were a military intelligence person while you were in, doesn’t mean there’s a military intelligence position waiting for you on the civilian side,” he added. “You need to take all your skills and throw them against the wall, making them adaptable to any environment — then you’ll be successful.”

Burse’s first order of business at the USO/Hire Heroes USA Transition Workshop was to list his skills and experience. Then, a coach helped him turn everything military into “civilian business speak.”

“There was a lot that I had done,” Burse said, “but I was only able to express those accomplishments in military terms and how I understood them. Hire Heroes USA gave me the vocabulary and the knowledge to bridge that gap. They worked with me one-on-one, which was very effective, and the experiences of each of the facilitators also broadened my horizons.”

After crafting his resume, the next step was to practice what he was preaching on paper — to participate in a mock interview.

“When you say out loud why you’re successful, it really helps you be successful again,” Burse said. “The mock interviews helped me to vocalize my accomplishments in a specific, ‘I was able to improve X by doing Y’ formula, and it made me feel afterwards like … hold on … I can do this!”

As a successful business coach today, Burse gives back by volunteering with Hire Heroes USA. He still finds veterans are unaware of exactly what it takes to sustain their quality of life on the civilian side.

“When I talk to soldiers who are transitioning, I’m usually ensuring their credit scores are good and that they have planned to be out of work for six to nine months,” Burse said, “because that’s unfortunately the national average. That’s scary if you can’t properly forecast what you will need because you don’t know what has been included in your pay all these years, such as food, rent, insurance or even major differences in taxable income.”

USO/Hire Heroes USA Transition Workshops are free, and the USO coordinates with local military commands on both logistics and recruiting for the workshops.

“Hire Heroes is brought in by an organization who knows us better than any — the USO — so common sense tells me this is a better program than the cookie-cutter, rubber-stamp stuff the government makes us go through,” Burse said. “These people are taking the time to sit down with you one-on-one in order to understand everything you’ve done and help you communicate that to the hiring world. That’s huge.

“In all honesty I’m also guilty of underestimating the value of the workshop. When soldiers transition there’s a lot of information thrown at us and we tend to put blinders on. But this is your transition, nobody else’s. Take ownership of it and make sure you take advantage of everything available. This is that one thing that can help get you in the door. This is that one thing you need to take seriously.” 

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Photo caption: Army veteran Ahmad Burse, now a small business coach, says the information he absorbed at USO/Hire Heroes USA Transition Workshops helped launch his civilian career. Photo courtesy of Ahmad Burse  

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