Join Florent Groberg for an in-depth discussion in this video Kris Urbauer's transition story, part of Florent Groberg on Finding Your Purpose after Active Duty.
- So I grew up here in Chicago and I graduated from West Point in 1986. So pretty early on in the days of ladies at the Academy. And when I graduated, I became an engineer officer. I was an engineering major at school. And wanted to be an engineer since I was a little girl. So I spent nine plus years in the Corps of Engineers, served at Fort Riley, Kansas, spent a year in Korea, and then the majority of my time at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
So I had a variety of positions, Platoon Leader up through the best one, I was a Company Commander at Fort Bragg of an airborne unit, so I had the opportunity to lead an airborne unit and be a jump master and all that good stuff, so I'm Senior Parachutist and enjoyed my time at Fort Bragg very much. I guess the highlight of my military career, or at least the first phase was I did some duty with the United Nations in Sarajevo, Bosnia in 1994, during the war. And that was when I really got the travel bug, I got to kind of see quite a bit of Europe and I served with folks from all over the world because I was the only American in Bosnia at the time.
Literally, the only one. So that was my exciting time in the military. Got out in the summer of '95 and went back to grad school full-time, got my Master's in engineering, got my professional engineer license, and then I came to work for GE and I started in January of '97, as a Six Sigma Black Belt, so a quality engineer, in Louisville, Kentucky with appliances. From there, did the Black Belt, mastered Black Belt thing, lots of Six Sigma quality work, and ended up back here in Chicago as a Region Manager of Consumer Service for appliances.
Shortly after I had returned home and was doing that role, 9/11 happened and I was called back into the military. So I went back into the Army for a year and I spent a year with Corps of Engineers at Ground Zero in New York City with clean up. So that was my 10th year of military service. And then from there, I came back to GE and I moved into HR and I did personnel relations work for 8.5 years and during the end of that tour of duty, I'd guess you'd say, I was one of the first co-leaders of the Veterans Network for GE, so growing out of my passion for doing that, the Senior HR leader for the company created a role for me, being the Program Manager of Veterans Initiative, so that's when we really kind of started to grow our presence in the military-friendly arena and try to become a leader in the space.
I started that role in June of 2011 and since then I've been doing kind of military stuff all along the way. Changed a little bit over the years. I now do military recruiting and run the Junior Officer Leadership Program for GE. So this is my, I'm in my 20th year of service with GE. So that was my nutshell of a career. I think there's challenges kind of on both sides on the veterans side and on the company side. And in all honesty though, the unemployment rate of veterans is getting better, so it is coming down.
So it's good, so it's a positive story. I think when a vet gets out of the service, they don't necessarily know what they want to do. I didn't know what I wanted to do, to be perfectly honest with you. That's why I went back to school full-time, I was like okay, I can escape for a year and a half, I can go back to school, and then I can think about this some more. It's just it's hard to know. Especially if that's all you know is military. That's all I knew, I left home at 18 to go to West Point and that was all I knew. So really knowing what you want to do and knowing where to look to figure out what you want to do. And there's lots more resources now, obviously there's so much more information on the internet obviously than there was 20 years ago, which didn't exist.
But they've got to, the veteran has to kind of take the step to really do some research. And then talk to people, but I realize that's not real comfortable until you kind of have at least some what of a path you think you might want to go down and then finding those right resources to talk to. So you get out of the military, say you're an infantryman, enlisted soldier, we don't need infantrymen or snipers in the civilian world, I get that, but once again, there's all those other skills, those soft skills, those values, that they bring to the table, and then they can be taught the technical skills if that's a piece of the puzzle.
But also the lack of, and I don't want to say, lack of confidence, that sounds too strong, but sometimes they're nervous about-- because I talk to a lot of vets, when go to events and stuff I like to talk to them and spend some time coaching and that sort of thing. But they don't know what they want to do, they're not completely comfortable with their... Not that they're not comfortable with their capabilities, but they just don't know how to translate what they did in the military to the civilian world. So the vets got to meet the companies halfway. So the companies also have to realize those wonderful skills that they can learn, vets have learned through their military career, they didn't know anything about how to be in the military when the joined the military either, so they had to learn there.
So it's bringing those values, marrying them up with some skills training that companies can provide and meeting in the middle. I think that's half of the battle. Companies are becoming more and more aware. Small, medium, large companies about the wonderful folks that are coming out of the service that can help their companies grow and thrive. So they've got to find those places to meet in the middle. And there's lots of different events to be able to do that, but each has got to take that step to meet in the middle.
One of the things that I always try to emphasize is when its transitioning military mem-- soldiers, I always say soldier, because I was in the Army, so anyways when a transitioning soldier is thinking about what they want to do for their civilian career, they've got to get out of their head, everything is team, team, team, team, team and they've got to become an I, I, I, I, I person at least for the interview process. Now the interesting thing about that is being an I, I, I, I, I person in the civilian world all the time is not a good thing either. But when you're in the interview process you really do have to emphasize what I did.
My skills, and what I accomplished in the military even though for the most part the culture of the military is everybody's the team and we're all for one and one--which is great. But they've all had the opportunity to lead, I don't care what rank they were, they were a leader in the military at some point. But in the civilian world you do have to have, obviously, the capabilities and the desire to lead, but you've also got to be a good team player. So it's a matter of balancing that emphasis in the interview process because then once they're part of a team with the company also, but it's a little bit of an imbalance in the way you think about it is you got to be an I, I, I, I, I person in the interview but you also have to come across that you can be a team player, because you've got to be able to lead and follow, when you're in the civilian world.
Same thing with the military but we emphasize the team a lot more. That's a challenge, that's a challenge. And that's something I talk about when I teach my transition workshops at the Hiring Our Heroes events is the I, I, I, I, I thing, which is uncomfortable for a lot of people. But it's the one time you got to do it. Whenever you're trying to talk to a civilian about your time in the military, I always think that you've got to kind of bring it back to data, as silly as that sounds, but you were a leader, but you were responsible for X number of people, you were responsible for X amount of a budget, you have specific projects, which we don't call them projects in the military, that you accomplish and what the end goal was, and whether you saved time or resources or lives in your project.
And just trying to build that picture for the civilian using the kind of information that we would talk about when we're in the civilian world in terms of project management or project leadership. One of the beauties of GE, not that I'm here to tout GE, but we've got 10,000 vets within the company. So there's going to be other veterans around and the goal of our Veterans Network is to help the stability inside the HR folks and the hiring managers that may not be familiar with the military to understand what that resume means and what that person kind of--not verify what they're saying but just kind of explain a little bit more about what they did in the military and what it means.
The individual still has to be able to kind of frame what they did. And I keep using the word project, but in kind of a management or project sense that makes sense to the person and use data. I really think that that is the key to the transition. Is having that help, having that network, having those folks that can answer questions and support you but I also think it's very hard to ask for help sometimes. You're kind of proud and you can do whatever and you're getting out.
And it's maybe uncomfortable to ask for help, especially within like--now asking for help within the military is a whole different ballgame because that's your unit and those are people you know, but reaching out and kind of asking for help from strangers I think can be difficult. But I really don't think you're going to find, as a veteran, I don't think you can find that right job, that right fit without some help, some networking, having a connection at the company, some person or persons, preferably, that can assist with that transition.
It'll just make it a whole lot easier, a whole lot smoother, a whole lot more efficient too. Well I know when I got out I was terrified. Because I didn't know anything but the military. So just uncomfortable, you're just uncomfortable. And I think, what I see when I talk to folks, when I meet them at the job versions office, a lack of confidence, and just being unsure of how to set foot into the civilian world because it is so different, depending on how long they are in and everything else too. It's uncomfortable, it's uncomfortable.
Scary, is the word I'd use. But, here's the other thing, this is what the military is kind of touting these days as you know, everybody going to get out at one point or another. Even the folks who stay in for a full career for 20 years. I've got classmates that are in for 30 years and they're Generals now, but they're all going to get out. Eventually you have to get out of the military. So once again I'm speaking from the point of the Army, because that's what I know the best, the Army, from almost day one when you join, is trying to, I don't want to say mentally prepare you, that's too strong, but really start you down the path of thinking about what you're going to do when you get out, regardless if you stay in for three years, five years, 10 years, 20 years, you're going to get out.
So you got to always be at least thinking in some fashion about the future and what you're going to do after the military because you're all going to have to get out. So that's, I think that's a good thing though, as opposed to you're in the military, you're in the military, you're in the-- we're not going to think about getting out, everybody's got to reenlist, everybody doesn't reenlist. So they're changing their focus a little bit, which I think is helpful. I think that's a good thing, a very good thing actually.
Discover how to understand your strengths and value, where your skills fit into today's job market, and how to translate your experience into a solid resume. Learn how a mentor can help you navigate the transition and open up new opportunities. With Flo's advice, you can find a new purpose and continue the journey you started in the military—bringing your talents to bear on a whole new mission in life.
- Taking initiative
- Understanding your value
- Translating your experiences
- Building your resume
- Using a mentor
- Setting realistic expectations
- Building a network
- Transitioning into a new job
- Bonus videos featuring stories of transition from veterans