Thursday, June 16, 2016

Nick Swaggert - Veteran Volunteers: Finding Purpose in Civilian Life

Nick Swaggert is a Veteran of the Marine Corps who served since 1999 as an infantryman and was deployed twice to Iraq. Nick is a Veteran Hiring Consultant whose work has helped both Veterans and companies by bridging a gap between Veterans seeking employment and companies who want to hire Veterans. Nick is a Pat Tillman Military Scholar and currently serves as a company commander in the Marine Corps Reserve. He is also a 2015 Veterans’ Voices Awardee.

Each week I speak with five to ten recently-transitioned Veterans looking for their first post-military job. You’ve likely heard many of the themes: they don’t know where their skills transfer, they hate the interview process, and/or even more so, the networking process. The more frustrated they are, the more likely I’ll be speaking to them again in 9-12 months. These frustrated Veterans will generally find a job but they usually find it less than fulfilling. Many of them will even attempt to return to active military service. This isn’t surprising considering that while serving in the military, the mission is clear and, by definition, you are serving your country. It’s hard to beat that!

While in service to your country, the idea that you’d do something outside of your profession to better the community seems a little redundant. Most Veterans don’t immediately realize the value of volunteering and giving back when they first transition out. One of my friends had spent a year working at a Fortune 500 company in town. He asked me to lunch and told me that he didn’t think he could continue working in that role, that there was no purpose. With a wife and two small children, he was unsure of how to find purpose and support his family. He wanted to quit… I suggested that he look at one of the amazing non-profits in Minnesota and get involved somewhere that could help him find his missing purpose, like the Minnesota Humanities Center or Team Rubicon, which is Veteran-led and dedicated to disaster relief.

My friend ended up volunteering at the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans. His philosophy was one of “pay it forward” by assisting those at the highest risk who were experiencing homelessness, transition issues, substance abuse issues, or one of the many challenges faced by people living in the modern world. By volunteering and finding a new sense of purpose, he was able to get over the challenge that many Veterans feel--the loss of a clear mission. This volunteer activity enabled him to gain civilian work experience and further his career while maintaining his identity as someone in service to others. If you are experiencing similar challenges, seeking out a community-based service organization where you can volunteer your time, money, or energy will help you find and fill the missing purpose in your life, all while enabling you to keep giving back to the greater community.

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