Kevin Releford (Courtesy photo)

Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at Gap committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace. GAP is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company.

Kevin Releford spent five years in the Army as an Armor Officer. After transitioning out of the military, he earned his MBA from Harvard Business School and now works as a senior director at Gap Inc. This experienced leader shares with us the military skills that made him successful, and how veterans can have a smoother transition into civilian workplaces.

For Releford, his initial transition was difficult because he didn't know exactly what he wanted to do. That's why he sought out mentors he could ask for advice. "Talk to people who have transitioned in different ways, because they will have good experience," he told Hirepurpose. "I had good mentors that helped me choose a major and get into school. I wasn't eligible for the GI Bill because of West Point, so I had to get scholarships and fellowships. I connected with donors who could help fund me going to Grad School."

After earning his MBA, Class of 2002, Releford held logistics leadership positions at three different retail companies. He finally chose to work at Gap Inc. because of the corporate culture. "I was looking for a company that had a good culture, social responsibility, and corporate responsibility," he said. "Gap has a healthy blend of culture and also getting results. I've been at places that were on different sides of that spectrum. We do a really good job of living our values. I was really attracted to the fact that the company's history includes being involved in the community."

Community connections are important at Gap Inc., and they begin on a local level. Releford says the company adopts families, helps with the Special Olympics, and does numerous community outreach programs. The focus on individual well-being is visible throughout the corporate structure. According to Releford, who is a campus leader, "we have about 2,000 associates. Any of them at any time can pull me aside or call me for a comment, question, or just to say hi. I consider that part of the job that I look forward to. Those interactions are positive and supportive."

Gap Inc. values veterans and welcomes their unique perspective. "There is a program called GapVets," Releford said. "It's a quality networking group. It helps veteran employees at GAP share ideas, accelerate their careers, and help contribute to the company's growth. It's great for networking, mentoring, and provides support to other veteran community organizations. Locally, we are close to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, so we've developed a relationship with those who are transitioning so they can do internships while they are still in the military."

Releford says hiring veterans is beneficial for both veterans and the company. "We want you to bring your best self — the things that made you successful in the military," he said. "Veterans bring skills to the table: purpose, focus, and intensity. We want to add their skills to our values and culture. The values of the organization are consistent with your values. You're encouraged to be who you are, and you shouldn't have to mold yourself into anything."

As a veteran, Releford sees a strong alignment between values instilled in the military and those promoted at Gap Inc. "The Gap culture shows that team is very important," he said. "There is a lot of focus to make sure every individual understands the role of the team and is able to do their part. Teamwork is something that I learned in the military and still use today."

Veterans transitioning out of the military need to spend more time thinking about their skills and what they can bring to an organization. Many have soft skills that have nothing to do with their specific job in the military. "Leadership is about influencing people for shared organizational goals," said Releford. "The military helps everyone hone that skill. Veterans bring focus. They want to know what is expected and what makes us successful. They bring discipline — wanting to contribute to team goals. They understand teamwork, collaboration, and partnering."

The challenge for many veterans is translating those military skills onto a civilian resume. Releford says he initially struggled with that. Now that he has hired numerous employees, he has advice for veterans compiling their resume. First, he encourages veterans to think through how their skills translate: "Focus not only on what you did (MOS), but on what you were able to help others do to bring success in that role: teamwork, influence, collaboration, coaching, etc. List your results but show your impact to the results." Next, he says veterans should "be mindful how you explain military experience. Don't use military jargon or acronyms. Practice getting comfortable explaining what you did to someone outside the military."

Releford urges veterans to be self-reflective and practice workshops or mock interviews where they explain their skills to someone outside the military. "If I'm interviewing someone with a military background, I try to see how self-reflective they are," he said. "No matter how long they have been in, I try to gauge how much do they understand what they've learned. Those who do well understand the difference between military culture and internalizing skills, and they have a more successful transition. That's what I try to coach people on when looking at resumes."

This post was sponsored by Gap Inc.

Gary Profit (Courtesy photo)

Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at Walmart which is committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace. Walmart is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn More.

Walmart has been a leading military brand for the past decade. One of the leaders behind it is retired Brig. Gen. Gary Profit, a 31-year Army veteran and senior director of military programs at Walmart.

Hirepurpose spoke with Profit to learn more about the motivation behind Walmart's military-friendly programs.

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Josh Atencio (Courtesy photo)

Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at IBM committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace. IBM is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company.

Much of America doesn't understand what it means to be a member of the National Guard or the Reserves. But today's citizen soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are exceptionally skilled at balancing their military duties with their family lives and civilian jobs. Meanwhile, it takes an understanding, flexible, and supportive employer to ensure that America's part-time service members have the tools to succeed in both careers.

Josh Atencio knew he had found a great opportunity when he accepted a position at IBM after graduating from Minnesota State University, Mankato. But the Minnesota National Guardsman didn't know how well IBM would support his job as a citizen soldier.

"When I was in school, balancing my coursework with drill and work was tough, but I made it work," he says. "When I graduated and started working at IBM, I had no idea how challenging it would be to balance both my military and civilian careers. But my teammates and leadership at IBM are incredibly supportive, and give me the flexibility I need to ensure I can be successful in both arenas."

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Kelly Hill (Courtesy photo)

Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at Discover Financial Services committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace. Discover Financial Services is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn More.

Her decision to leave the United States Air Force as an Intelligence Officer was a tough one, but ultimately, Kelly Hill knew it was the right choice for her and her family. Her husband had transitioned to the Navy Reserve shortly before they got married, and when they thought of their future together, providing balance and stability for their growing family was an important value. But Hill didn't know how to leverage her military experience, or which career field she wanted to pursue.

"It was a terrifying time in my life," she says. "I didn't know what skills I had to offer or how to market myself."

Hill and her family relocated to Chicago, where she's forging a successful career at Discover. "I had a veteran friend who worked at Discover and gave them such high praise for the values, work culture and environment, that I knew it was a place I wanted to be," she says.

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(DoD photo)

Your time in the military is coming to a close and it feels like the world is your oyster. But just like you can prepare an oyster a thousand ways (like Bubba Gump and shrimp…), sometimes having countless options feels more overwhelming than exciting.

Here are four great options to consider after your service:

1. Build a business

Maybe you've always wanted to open up a coffee shop or a t-shirt company. Whether you have the next post-it note type of idea or you want to build your own consulting firm, entrepreneurship may be a good option for you.

Your military service has taught you leadership, discipline, attention to detail and so many other skill sets that you'll be able to leverage as your forge your own path. Plus, we heard your boss is awesome.

2. Trade school

If you know the specialty you want to focus on, trade school may be a great option for you. Whether you want to work in aviation or engineering, fashion merchandising or marketing, there are a lot of great options to consider.

Attending trade school can help you save time, which in turn will save you money. Having a professional certification can boost your credibility, confidence and hireability.

3. Government contracting

Sometimes finding a career after your time in the military might be as simple as walking down the hall. Military service is greatly valued in the government. Whether you served as an operator and want to head into the Intelligence Community, or served as an Intel-O and want to parlay that work as an analyst, the options are endless.

Government departments and agencies rely on contractors to augment their staff and there is no better place to look than to the men and women who have already done the job or are at least very familiar with it.

4. Let CTVI help you

Maybe you're not 100% sure what you want to do. Leverage the incredible programs through Columbia University's Center for Veteran Transition and Integration (CVTI). CVTI provides innovative educational programming and support for service member and veterans making the transition to two- and four-year colleges, graduate and professional schools, civilian life, and the workforce.

Utilizing a team of educational technologists and instructional designers, CVTI creates robust online educational programming that facilitates transition from service to academia and the workforce.

The Center for Veteran Transition and Integration is dedicated to creating courses that are designed specifically to ensure veteran success in transition. Currently CVTI is offering three courses with more on the way, and they're free to everyone.

The courses are:

Attaining Higher Education

Prepare to transition to college using intentional decision-making. This course is aimed at active duty service members and veterans. Learn about the college admission process, financial aid, and choosing a right-fit college.

University Studies for Student Veterans

This course helps veterans transition smoothly from military service to college, and helps them maximize their success once they arrive.

Find Your Calling: Career Principals for Returning Veterans

This course provides military veterans with a useful roadmap to transition more smoothly from military service to a new and meaningful civilian career.

You can access all their content through the CVTI website which includes a Video Library and Microlessons. No matter what you decide to do, whether it's finding a meaningful career or furthering your education, CVTI can help.

First decision made. CVTI.

This post was sponsored by Columbia University.

Jill Anderson and Danielle Stone (Courtesy photos)

Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at PayPal committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace. PayPal is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn More.

The mood was somber in Washington D.C. at the Washington National Cathedral on Dec. 5, 2018. Jill Anderson, the program manager for a team of Air Force social aides at the White House, welcomed presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump to George H. W. Bush's funeral service, which she had helped organize.

"I really wanted to have all these conversations, Anderson recalls. "But my job is to let them be their most authentic selves, and have that control of 'Hey, this is just another person that's having a hard day by attending a funeral.' To be so intimately involved in such a unique point in history was really a powerful experience."

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