The Office of Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA) recently hosted its inaugural Veteran Career-Ready Bootcamp at the National Veterans Resource Center at the Daniel and Gayle D’Aniello Building (NVRC). This career-preparation event brought together student veterans for a daylong series of classes, panel discussions and practical application exercises with one focus: how to successfully launch a career after graduation.

While military service is often seen as an advantage in the hiring process, hiring managers may struggle to fully comprehend the valuable experience that veteran applicants bring to the table. Similarly, veterans may be uncertain about leveraging their military experience as a bargaining chip during compensation negotiations.

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Participants mingle at the inaugural Veteran Career-Ready Bootcamp.

Michelle Johnson, a retired U.S. Army sergeant major and current doctoral candidate in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, emphasizes the challenge for corporate hiring managers and recruiters.

“It is sometimes difficult for them to fathom the scale and scope of the responsibilities placed in the hands of service members because that paradigm doesn’t work in the corporate world, where experience and leadership come with time,” Johnson says. “In the military, experience comes swiftly, and leadership starts on day one. It’s not unusual for a 19-year-old to lead a nine-person team in a foreign nation, or for a 22-year-old recent college graduate to help a war-torn community build a local government from the ground up.”

This marked the first time such a daylong event was held for military-connected students at Syracuse. Although the OVMA provides various programs and services to better prepare student veterans for the job market, scheduling a full day of programming during the academic year poses challenges. The success of the event was partially attributed to the support of OVMA’s recent corporate sponsor, Visions Federal Credit Union.

“Visions was thrilled to support the Veteran Career-Ready Bootcamp. Programs like this are exactly why we saw a partnership with the OVMA as a perfect fit,” says Timothy Strong, director of branding and public relations for Visions Federal Credit Union. “The continued emphasis on providing the military-connected community with skills to benefit them in and out of the classroom fits perfectly with our mission.”

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A presenter from Visions Federal Credit Union shares expertise with participants.

Participants began the day gaining valuable insights from veteran alumni who recently graduated. The panel shared their experiences in leveraging resources and strategies to secure jobs after graduation, along with insights into new changes in the labor market.

Afterward, Lauren Meyer, an administrative specialist with the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, led the participants through the exercise to personalize the day’s lessons. Throughout the day, participants received instruction on resume writing, optimizing LinkedIn profiles, building a personal brand and even obtained free professional headshots.

“I particularly enjoyed the LinkedIn session because I learned about keywords to use, how to make my profile more engaging for employers, and how to use the built-in artificial intelligence features to my advantage,” says Priscilla Cruz ’24, a senior in the School of Information Studies enrolled through the U.S. Army’s Early Commissioning Program. “During the lecture, I updated my experience section based on the advice I was given and added media to showcase my work.”

In the evening, participants were treated to a formal dinner in the Bisignano Grand Hall. However, instead of celebrating, the participants focused on learning the intricacies and history of formal dinner etiquette, taught by Robert Shutt, a professional etiquette educator and author. The students discovered that many present-day rules of dinner etiquette have origins in military customs and courtesies. Afterward, members of the military-connected community on campus joined the participants for an evening of networking and camaraderie.

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Robert Shutt, professional etiquette educator and author, (standing) instructs participants at a formal dinner.

The seminar occurred just days before the OVMA hosted a career networking reception for military-connected students at the University. This biannual event attracts hiring managers and employers from various industries seeking to hire veterans and military family members, providing student veterans valuable one-on-one time to showcase their talents and inquire about potential job placements after graduation.

“We realize that most of our military-connected students are pursuing higher education for a specific career choice in their post-service lives,” says retired U.S. Army colonel Ron Novack, executive director of the OVMA. “We are always searching for new and engaging ways to support our military-connected students, including developing innovative programing like this and offering services aimed at helping them take advantage of any opportunity to better prepare themselves for the next chapter in their lives.”

Veteran Career Services plans to host the career boot camp every other year, ensuring undergraduate student veterans have ample opportunities to participate. Those interested in the programs and services offered to military-connected students are encouraged to explore the website.