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Atlanta Business Chronicle - by Jason Massad Contributing Writer

Military veterans looking for work in the private sector can be a good fit to work at a broad range of companies, but it often takes translating a résumé full of military jargon into something the layman can understand.

Atlanta-based national recruiting firm HRworks LLC puts 25 percent of its business into making this happen for military veterans - with thousands of military-to-civilian job offers to show for it.

"Military transition has always been an important part of our business and a growing part of our business," said Kurt Ronn, HRworks' president and founder. "It's recognizing veterans on the grass-roots levels. We need to do something to help our vets."

One of the greatest challenges to placing a veteran can be mistaken stereotypes that some in the private sector have of military veterans, Ronn said. Some of the stereotypes that veterans are saddled with are that they are highly regimented, inflexible, "can't think outside the box," and need to be closely supervised and instructed.

The reality is that many in the military are talented, well-educated, have a high level of integrity, leadership skills and a do-whatever-it-takes attitude to get the job done, he said. "If you have an organization of any size, you don't have to look very far to find veterans in a leadership role."

Still, there are challenges in translating military skills to ones that are useful and identifiable to the private sector.

Linda Sykes, project manager of military recruitment, has established relationships with more than 100 military transition centers across the country. With 20 years of experience as a U.S. Marine, she knows the switch from the military to the private sector firsthand.

Engineering and technical skills, such as welding, are readily identifiable by the private sector. But others, such as distribution and operations management, can be a little murkier to the layman.

For instance, a retailer looking for an operations manager could be well-served by a junior military officer with a college education that has experience directing millions of dollars worth of supplies and military material in Bosnia.

A chief warrant officer, with a seasoned enlisted military background, can routinely be in charge of 300 people and a $3 million budget while serving in the military.

"There are lots of jobs that the military can adapt to," Sykes said. "On the distribution side and retail, that's easy to catch on."

A survey tracking retail workers placed in the Hampton Roads, Va., area showed that military veterans stacked up well against workers from a traditional retail background. The attrition rate was higher for civilians versus their veteran counterparts.

Sherrie Maclin, a district manager for The Home Depot Inc. in Baltimore, was eventually recruited and placed with the Atlanta-based company through HRworks. A 1991 graduate of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., she served the next seven years starting in Japan and ending at the Pentagon. She was an active reserve member for another six years.

She attained jobs in the civilian sector through the military's transition program before moving up the ranks at Home Depot and now oversees the operations of eight stores in northern Maryland.

"A lot of times as a military person you think, ‘All I have done is deployment,' " Maclin said, but it requires strategic planning that involves resource evaluation and leadership skills.

HRworks has also started a program this year with the Rotary Club of Atlanta. Dubbed "Hire One Hero," the company has been successful in luring large companies to hire a wounded veteran to help integrate them back into the workforce.

The rotary connection has allowed HRworks to connect with senior leadership in major Atlanta companies, such as Turner Broadcasting System Inc. and Georgia-Pacific LLC to find fits for veterans with post-war issues.

Ronn said that internal programs for companies to promote the hiring of wounded veterans can become cumbersome. The idea for this program is that "if you hire one and I hire one, pretty soon it will grow from there."

The program has shown signs of success. Turner Broadcasting, for instance, hired a security officer who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

To help in the success of the placement, the veteran is not just dropped into the position. In this case, the supervisor is aware of the issue. "By having a champion in the organization and setting up the groundwork properly, the person can have the ability to do that job," he said.

View the original publication online in the Atlanta Business Chronicle