Adam Torres reviews “A Woman Veteran: From Exit to Entrepreneur” by Elizabeth Yeo
Get an inside look into what it was like for Elizabeth Yeo to transition from the military to civilian life.
In Money Matters Business Leaders Edition Volume #1, Elizabeth Yeo takes us on the journey of what it was like for her being a woman leaving the military and transitioning into the civilian life of an entrepreneur. Why is this important? For starters, by 2043, women are projected to make up 16.3 percent of all living Veterans according to a report released by the Department of Veterans Affairs. With an increasing number of women transitioning into the civilian workforce, it’s important employers understand the unique challenges these women face.
First I’ll share an excerpt from Elizabeth’s chapter to set the stage:
“May 26, 1994 was the first day of my civilian life. I visited the grocery store for the first time in four years and found myself paralyzed in front of what seemed like thousands of cereal choices. I felt more overwhelmed, at that moment, than I did when I started my first day of boot camp. Why didn’t anyone prepare me for what I would encounter as I left my military life behind?”
When Elizabeth shared this story with me, I was moved and knew I would publish her work. This also made me realize that I, like many others, were not sensitive or aware of the plight women transitioning into civilian life face. Following are a few of the key takeaways from Elizabeth’s chapter that I found helpful in expanding my understanding of what it’s like for women exiting the military.
Military Work Experience Is Invaluable
If you were looking at a resume and you saw “Cryptologic Technician Operator” (CTO) listed would you know if the skills learned in that position translated into a sales role? I wouldn’t. As you can imagine, when Elizabeth had that listed as the most recent work experience on her resume, it made her first task of seeking employment challenges.
“Most People had never even heard the word cryptology before meeting me–as I was told on numerous occasions during my job search,” according to Elizabeth.
Taking the time to understand how military skills and duties translate into civilian life is important. Elizabeth goes on to tell how she eventually lands a position at one of the “big five” accounting firms after attending a job fair.
Service Before Self Vs. Civilian Culture
Entering the civilian workforce brought new culture shock opportunities for Elizabeth. Having never been in the military, I didn’t have any idea how individualistic the civilian work culture can be vs the military.
She states “while I was accustomed to a culture of service and teamwork. Putting my own needs first, as opposed to the needs of friends, my fellow veterans, or my family, was a difficult concept for me to understand.”
While Elizabeth is not arguing that civilian life should adhere to the military phrase “I got your six,” meaning being protected from behind by another soldier at all costs (Elizabeth teaches the concept in her chapter), she does make the point that it is important for business leaders, entrepreneurs and professionals to develop deep bonds with the people around them.
Accordingly, in her current professional life, she strives to build teams that are “tight-knit, inclusive, respectful and focused.”
Women Veterans Make Great Entrepreneurs
One of the most interesting points Elizabeth makes in her chapter is when she contrasts the military and an entrepreneur's purpose. In Entrepreneur speak, we could call this having your “why.” In military speak it’s called having your “mission.”
“The military is very clear on their 'why:' The mission is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. Any service member of any branch will give the same answer if asked why they serve: to fight for and protect the freedom and liberties of this great nation” according to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth encourages women veterans to use their core traits developed through military training in a strategic manner. These developed traits can be an advantage to women on their own entrepreneurial journey.
Each woman veteran faces their own unique challenges and obstacles when entering civilian life. Elizabeth shared some of hers with us along with a few of the benefits she felt the military gave her. To the recruiters, hiring managers, business owners and otherwise, let’s all do what we can to support our women veterans in transition.
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