Philanthropy Roundtable believes every American should have the freedom to reach his or her full, unique potential and achieve economic security. The Roundtable supports organizations that eliminate barriers to upward mobility, expand opportunity and reward hard work and perseverance
This week, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott announced her latest round of giving: $3.9 billion to 465 nonprofits, including those working in education, housing, criminal justice and veterans affairs. Hire Heroes USA, an organization dedicated to helping veterans find meaningful and lasting careers, received a record-breaking $11 million – the largest gift in its history. While Scott’s gift is the most recent public sign of recognition for the organization, Hire Heroes USA has built a national reputation for assisting veterans and military spouses in the transition from the military to civilian life.
According to Hire Heroes USA, “Each year the military discharges 270,000 services members. Eighty percent of them won’t have a job lined up.” The organization also notes the unemployment rate of military spouses is four times higher than the national average. That’s why the services Hire Heroes USA offers are integral in connecting veterans and military spouses with resources to help them find meaningful and stable employment. Through highly personalized sessions with an assigned transition specialist, the organization provides career mentorship, professional resume writing assistance, mock interviews and salary negotiation strategies, among other services – all at no cost. Hires Heroes USA also maintains a job board with thousands of postings, hosts quarterly virtual career fairs and partners with a network of employers dedicated to hiring veterans and military spouses.
Much of the organization’s success is rooted in its high-touch, individualized approach to serving the military community, which is grounded in firsthand knowledge of the specific needs of the people they serve.
It all started when U.S. Army Sgt. Justin Callahan was severely injured in a landmine explosion on duty in Afghanistan. While recovering from his wounds at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he had a chance encounter with John Bardis, the founder of MedAssets and former assistant secretary for administration at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bardis was moved by his conversation with Callahan and his concerns over being able to find work, and offered him a job on the spot. This partnership would later lead to the creation of Hire Heroes USA.
Since then, the organization has helped more than 65,000 veterans and military spouses secure meaningful careers.
Retired U.S. Air Force Capt. Erin Pineda is one of the veterans who found success in his civilian job search with the assistance of Hire Heroes USA. He credits the organization with providing hands-on support to help his transition. “Hire Heroes USA will help usher you through this challenging time with personalized support. They have tons of resources, connections and the know-how to help you translate your unique background,” he said. “And it’s all free for veterans and military spouses thanks to their nonprofit model.”
The organization runs several programs including:
- Partnered Career Transition is the nonprofit’s hallmark program. Through the process of assessment, training and mentorship, clients are paired with transition specialists to create professional resumes and learn effective job search techniques.
- Career Transition Workshops teach veterans how to develop a strategic plan, create a resume and conduct a job search.
- The Hire Heroes USA Volunteer Mentor Network connects veterans with volunteers for industry-specific coaching, networking and interview practice to move them forward in their job search.
A focus on helping female veterans
As they continue to grow their offerings, a significant strategic priority for Hire Heroes USA is the expansion of its services to targeted populations, including female veterans who face unique employment barriers.
Women represent the fastest-growing population in both military service and the veteran community. In greater numbers than ever, women have stepped up to serve in new, critical and formidable roles defending American principles and contributing to the nation’s national security. Nevertheless, women routinely face challenges that put them at an increased risk of victimization and isolation while deployed – and higher rates of homelessness than their male counterparts when they return to civilian life.
The Hire Heroes USA team recently spoke with the Roundtable about why they believe this is a particularly important time to help female veterans. One staffer said, “While our support of female clients is not driven by the current pandemic, COVID-19 has deeply impacted female workers. Given that women veterans already face greater hurdles than their male counterparts, the impact of the pandemic on these clients is an issue of significant concern to our organization and our clients.”
The expansion of program offerings to a new population is no easy task. In an effort to ensure they understand the unique needs of female veterans, Hire Heroes USA spends time conducting focus group discussions and listening tours to hear directly from the people they are trying to support.
As a U.S. Army reserve soldier and director of corporate partnerships at Hire Heroes USA, Elizabeth Reyes is familiar with the myriad challenges women experience when transitioning out of the military.
“Women are an indispensable part of the armed services, but they face challenges that male veterans don’t. Female veterans are more likely to experience financial hardships after transitioning to civilian life,” Reyes said. “On average, their job searches take longer than their male counterparts. It’s unacceptable and it’s why we’re working to better understand and ease the barriers to employment that women veterans face when they return to civilian life.”