During November, in celebration of National Veterans and Military Families Month, we turned to a leader who works at the intersection of two components of the Points of Light Civic Circle® – service and work. Meg Hendricks, Head of Military & Veterans Affairs at Fiserv, who is also an Army Veteran, has responsibility for Fiserv’s military and Veterans programming. Through a U.S. military and veterans engagement strategy called Fiserv Salutes, Fiserv, a long-standing partner of Points of Light, provides the military community with career opportunities, educational resources and business solutions. Fiserv was recently ranked #1 on the Military Times Best for Vets Employers list and has been ranked in the top 10 for the last seven years. Read on for her advice to fellow veterans and her challenge to you – our readers.
Every year, on November 11, the United States and several other countries around the world come together to honor and reflect upon the service of our veterans. It is a day to pause, reflect and express our deepest appreciation for the bravery and dedication of these individuals. One of the most powerful aspects of Veterans Day is that it is not limited to a specific branch of the military or a particular conflict. It is a day to honor all who have served. It’s an opportunity to recognize the sacrifice made by the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, as well as the countless support personnel and their families.
So, what does it mean to be a veteran? It could mean that you served in a time of war or in a time of peace. It could mean that you served for two years or more than 30. Why is it that one of the most valuable things about being a veteran is comradery and kinship? I feel it with all those who have served. Which is why as I reflect on Veterans Day, after spending another year at the NYC Veterans Day parade, I can’t help but feel so honored that my job is to support my fellow veterans and the whole military community through my role as Head of Military and Veteran Affairs at Fiserv.
I believe that providing support and assistance to those who have served is a great way to give back to the military community. So, coming from someone who has worked in this space for almost a decade and is also an Army Veteran, the following are a few of my suggestions to those who have served:
Start with One
There are so many resources and service organizations out there, it can be daunting to try to navigate them all. So, start with one. Veteran service organizations have become more and more connected over the years and if the one you start with isn’t the right one, I know they will send you in the right direction. It may take some time but keep a list of those connections along the way, you never know when you might need them or could be helpful to them in return.
Ask For Help
Let’s face it, it has been shown time and again that veterans are not good at asking for help. Studies have found that seeking help can be associated with stigma, particularly among veterans. Furthermore, these studies reveal that while many veterans express concerns about being negatively judged if they were to seek mental health treatment, they hesitate to judge a fellow veteran negatively in a similar situation. This highlights the complex dynamics of help-seeking in the military community. Break the cycle! Ask for help! If you think about it, being a military veteran means you are part of one of the biggest alumni groups in the world. So, reach out; the worst that can happen is that you get no response or someone says no. However, the likelihood if you reach out to someone in the military community or who supports the military community is that, if they can’t assist, they will point you in the right direction.
Leverage Your Network
Networking is a powerful tool. I know you may feel like this is said too much, but your network truly is your net worth. I cannot tell you the number of times I have leaned on my network to provide support both personally and professionally. The great thing about those of us who have served is we are always willing to pick back up where we left off. So, call your old battle buddy, reach out to a fellow service member on LinkedIn, go to military-related events in your local area, seek out virtual events that will be helpful. Figure out a way to engage and expand your network in a way that works for you.
Your Health is Your Wealth
How many of us completely stopped working out when we got out of the military? Or said, “I’m going to take a break from it” and then never fully got back into it? I bet quite a few. Yes, there are those who continue to maintain a strict schedule, but there are others who drift away from it when it is no longer required and planned for us. Or maybe life just got in the way. Physical activity is often the thing that gets taken off the schedule when things get too busy. So, my best advice is make taking care of yourself a priority and find the things that you enjoy that also keep you active, both mind and body.
Your Work is Important
What you choose to do professionally after service is important. You spend a huge chunk of time at your job, so it is smart to take some time to determine where you fit. There are a ton of resources out there to help you find the best company for you. Notice that I said “the best company” not the best job. Yes, the organizations that provide employment assistance will also help you with identifying jobs but in my opinion, it is more important to find a company that fits with your values, morals, lifestyle. Once you start working at that company, then there will be opportunities for internal mobility if the first job you take is not the best fit.
None of this advice is earth shattering or new, but it may be a helpful reminder. On that note, remember that no matter how long it has been since you transitioned from active duty, it is all part of the journey, and it’s okay to seek help and advice along the way. Your military experience has equipped you with valuable qualities that can contribute to your success in the civilian world. It is my belief that the best thing that we can do for our fellow brethren in the military community is lift them up, meet them where they are, and give them the support they need when they need it. As my Navy friends say, “A rising tide lifts all ships.” My challenge to you, whether you are a veteran or not, is to find some time to help a veteran this holiday season.
For more information on ways Fiserv supports the Veteran and military community, please visit the Fiserv Salutes web page.