VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY)- The transition from military life to civilian life is a challenge for any service member. The Honor Foundation seeks to ease that burden for special forces members, arming them with the skills, connections and knowledge to excel in the civilian workforce.
The Honor Foundation is a nationwide non-profit that guides special forces members through career coaching, self-discovery and networking. Honor Foundation fellows go through cohorts that last several months.
Bob Newman, director of virtual programming, served as a SEAL officer for three decades and is an Honor Foundation Alumni himself.
“I realized that fulfillment came from helping develop the next generation and the next leaders in the SEAL community,” Newman said. “Now, I’m really proud to play a similar role for our fellows in the private sector, seeing them blossom and bloom, and watching them give back to our organization.”
Newman said fellows undergo assessments to determine their strengths and interests. They shadow professionals to learn about various professions and fields.
Fellows learn to identify and put forward their “soft skills,” such as leadership and creativity, in job interviews, Newman said.
That element of the program came in handy for former SEAL Justin Miller, who landed a job as a mortgage broker for Veterans United Home Loans in Virginia Beach.
“Nobody wants to see shooting and jumping and diving or your résumé,” Miller said. “But being able to manage those operations, being able to get everybody in the right place at the right time to do dangerous things, and to keep the wheels from falling off and logistics in place, is a really valuable skill that translates.”
Miller noted that he’s helping people make one of the largest purchases of their lives.
“Keeping mission focused on getting folks in their home that they want,” Miller said, “is a very similar situation that you find yourself in.”
Miller’s colleague, Harry Basnight, served as a Naval officer working in explosive ordnance disposal for over 20 years. Before leaving the military, he became a mortgage loan officer. He went through the Honor Foundation to ensure he wanted to be a mortgage broker. Through the program, he decided the career was a good fit.
“You don’t know what you don’t know yet,” Basnight said. A lot of people in the military, especially special operations branches, there’s a lot of unknowns out there, and until you do some digging and finding out what’s behind the closed door.”
The program entails a rigorous networking element, dubbed “50 Cups of Coffee.” Fellows meet with 50 professionals during their time with the foundation to learn about career paths. It’s also a chance to connect with potential employers.
“What you can see from these fellows is if they actually chose to come on board to your company, they’re extending that trust and belief in you as an organization,” Newman said. “All you have to do is hone that trust, show them that you can give them a sense of purpose and empower them to make decisions and have autonomy and leadership in your organizations. They’re going to crush whatever task you put in front of them.”
To discover the purpose and passion, Newman recommends that fellows turn to their roots.
“Go back and do some hobby that you enjoyed before you were in the military,” Newman said. “Go back and get in touch with who you were as a human being prior to serving. Sometimes that can really resonate you. You might have lost touch with something that really motivated and inspired you.”
The support system extends throughout the careers of alumni. If an alum relocates or makes another career switch, they can tap into the Honor Foundation’s professional network to find new opportunities.
Sessions for the Virginia Beach campus are held at Tidewater Community College, though the organization is seeking a new space in the area.
To learn about applying, donating, volunteering or becoming a 50 Cups of Coffee mentor, visit Honor.Org.