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Returning home: One veteran’s story of finding her place in civilian life

Susan-basic-training.jpegSusan Slick, MHRT-C, MHR, Behavioral Health Home program manager at Acadia Hospital, remembers the culture shock after leaving military life in 2014, when her husband retired from the Air Force. A 12-year Air Force veteran herself, Susan discovered returning fully to the civilian life she left at eighteen was harder than she imagined. "I felt inept when I came back, like a fish out of water.” She was determined to succeed in her new job as an Access Center associate at Acadia Hospital. “It wasn’t easy, but I said to my husband, ‘We didn’t make it through twenty-four years of military service to fail now.’”

Military veterans want what all employees want: clear objectives, direct communication, and a sense of mission and purpose. Unique to veterans, however, is the profound differences between military and civilian work culture—it can be disorienting, like being hired for a job you’ve never done in an unfamiliar country. Add to that the challenge of translating military qualifications, training, and experience into civilian language, and it’s clear our veterans could use some extra support. This is why EMHS continually looks for new, innovative ways to support current and future military employees.

EMHS is pleased to announce a new partnership between the system and the United States Army’s Partnership for Youth Success (PaYS) program. The PaYS program provides soldiers and ROTC cadets a guaranteed job interview within the system that creates an opportunity to explain how their military experience can benefit the organization. Catharine MacLaren, PhD, LCSW, CEAP, EMHS vice president of Talent and Diversity explains, “EMHS is committed to supporting our veterans and recognizes that they bring a lot of highly transferable skills to healthcare. Becoming the first Maine employer to join the PaYS program allows us yet another important opportunity to connect with, interview, and employ quality candidates.”

Susan-last-flight.jpegOnce hired, veterans are offered continued support throughout the EMHS system. Susan attributes her initial success at Acadia Hospital to a supportive mentor and coworkers. In the fast-paced Access Center, she quickly realized the black-and-white standardized military culture was being replaced with civilian gray. “There were times that I didn’t think I was going to be successful. However, I thought back to flying in the Boeing KC-135 aircraft. In that role, I couldn’t be distracted by everything around me—I needed to stay focused to keep everyone safe. It was that moment when I realized I already had the skillset for this job.”

Robin Doody, EMHS talent acquisition specialist, and coordinator for the Hire-A-Vet program at EMHS says, “Some veterans tend to be reserved about their skillsets when creating a civilian resume. That’s why we help veterans and hiring managers translate military experience into civilian terms to find the best match of talent and need within our organization.”

Susan, now a supervisor, says many veterans would make exceptional hires throughout the system, but their applications may be weeded out inadvertently by constraining job requirements. “To hiring managers, I encourage them to look at their job descriptions closely. Could you be missing candidates due to arbitrarily required credentials?”

For veterans coming into the civilian workforce, Susan adds, “Remember where you came from, what you overcame in the military. You’ve adapted and thrived once, and you will do it again.”

Learn more about EMHS’ veteran programs and contact your local Human Resources representative, or HR Service Center at 855-660-0202 or 207-973-4000.

Helpful veteran resources:
Veteran Employment Tool Kit,
Translate your skills from military occupational specialty code to civilian occupations: