The list of skills that military veterans bring to the civilian workplace is well known, but employers can also benefit by looking outside the list and cultivating a veteran’s desire to develop new skills in the private sector. T-Mobile has deployed that approach with the TechX Returnship program. The program can help anyone looking to return to the workforce, but its focus on teamwork and innovation is especially relevant to military veterans seeking to go beyond their training and build a new career.
Current reports find that veterans are 70 percent more likely to take a step back in seniority when transitioning into the civilian workforce (taking roles that they are overqualified for) and during the COVID-19 pandemic, 34 percent of military spouses reported losing their jobs – compounding the existing 22 percent unemployment rate among military spouses that has remained the same for the last decade.
The image of a brilliant scientist working alone is ingrained in popular culture, but in reality, teamwork is the heart of innovation. With that in mind, the TechX Returnship program is a perfect fit for T-Mobile.
T-Mobile has positioned itself as an “industry disruptor and rule breaker” that is “revolutionizing an industry and pushing the envelope on innovation for the future.” Within that self-portrait the company also emphasizes a team-based culture, describing itself as “a big, crazy, innovative family.”
The Returnship enables T-Mobile to cultivate that combination of teamwork and innovation among military veterans and other professionals returning to work. It consists of a full-time, six-month paid internship program currently operating in Washington, Kansas, Virginia, New Jersey, Georgia, Texas, Pennsylvania, California and Colorado, as well as online via remote positions.
Though T-Mobile does not guarantee a job after six months, the experience provides military veterans with new opportunities to connect, network and form close professional relationships in the civilian world.
The company explains it this way: “During the program, you’ll be paired with a group of fellow professionals also returning to work, forming a cohort that will navigate the program together. You’ll gain relevant work skills and experiences through challenging projects, assignments, and training. You’ll also get to build a professional community, network, and receive ongoing coaching and mentorship to help you continue to develop.”
If that sounds like an intensive amount of work on the employer’s side, it is. In order to ensure that sufficient resources are dedicated to the mission of hiring from the return-to-work pool, T-Mobile has engaged the firm reacHIRE to develop and manage the Returnship program.
As a company built on the personal experience of its founder and CEO Addie Swartz, reacHIRE began with a focus on women looking to return to work after an extended absence caring for family members.
In Swartz’s case, the absence was an unexpected, unplanned and complete break with her career trajectory as a serial entrepreneur. After taking time away to care for her daughter following an accident, Swartz founded reacHIRE with the realization that women in similar situations form an untapped pool of talent that is often passed over in favor of job-seekers with seamless resumes.
As applied to military veterans through the TechX Returnship program, the reacHIRE strategy involves a full slate of support that includes individual assistance with interview preparation, assembling a resume, and deciding on a career pathway in addition to network building and professional coaching.
In a recent video interview provided to TriplePundit, Air Force veteran Alex Asuncion explained how this holistic return-to-work approach helped him break out of a career box. Asuncion worked in cybersecurity for the Air Force and California National Guard for the better part of a decade, but he was ready for a change in the civilian workforce.
“Returning to civilian life was a bit of a challenge since I joined the military at quite a young age,” he said. Eager to pursue a new career pathway, Asuncion went back to school and earned an MBA in May 2020 just as the first wave of the pandemic was hitting the U.S. in force. But even with the advanced degree, he found it difficult to find opportunities outside of his familiar line of work.
His search led him to Hiring Our Heroes and eventually the TechX Returnship, where he found a pathway out of purely technical work and into a more challenging role as a project manager with T-Mobile.
“The Returnship was an amazing program that gave me opportunities and mentorship and enabled me to be more confident in the role I was trying to pursue,” he recalled. “My career at T-Mobile is still very young, but I'm hoping to continue to grow more into my role as a project manager and to grow within the company.”
In this day and age of digital job-seeking, it is extremely difficult to get the attention of potential employers, especially for those who have been out of the workforce for a number of years.
Hands-on mentoring programs like the Returnship can provide veterans with that missing connection to the people behind the online application form. The teamwork model also provides cohorts like Asuncion with a deeper understanding of their peers in the return-to-work population and of their potential to make a significant impact on their employers.
“Even for those who aren't veterans and are just looking to get back into their careers after a long break, I would also highly suggest looking into this Returnship program,” he concluded. “From my Returnship cohort, we had many that fit that category of people having to take a step away from their careers due to family reasons or other factors. I for sure know that they all greatly benefited from this Returnship program, and it definitely helped them all restart their careers.”
The lesson is clear: Hiring veterans with applicable skills is important, but in order to realize the full impact of a hiring program, companies also need to resource veterans to embrace a career path they’re passionate about and pursue their next step with skills and confidence.
Image credit via Shutterstock
This article series is sponsored by T-Mobile and produced by the TriplePundit editorial team.