A Tough Transition Made Easier

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A Tough Transition Made Easier

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“I was achieving my dreams…and then I wasn’t…until I was again.”

So begins Joe Musselman’s story of “meaningful failure,” from the time he embarked upon his dream of becoming an elite Navy SEAL, to his medical discharge from training after a serious injury, to his launch in 2014 of The Honor Foundation, an institute dedicated to preparing Navy SEAL and other special-operations veterans for careers beyond the military.

Oracle

Joe Musselman, CEO of the Honor Foundation, tells Oracle employees how he helps prepare special-operations veterans for careers in civilian life.

Musselman’s father, grandfather, and a long line of uncles and great uncles all served in the US Armed Forces, so continuing that tradition was of paramount importance to him. When a spinal injury forced Musselman (the name fits—he’s one hulking man) out of the SEALs and ultimately out of the Navy, he was determined to give back to the military in other ways that would make his family and his SEAL training brothers proud.

In an uplifting presentation captured in the video below, Musselman relates how the relationship he formed with a retiring master chief, an “iconic Navy SEAL,” inspired him to pursue his current career prepping special-forces veterans for their next missions in life. One day during Musselman’s yearlong physical rehabilitation before his formal discharge from the Navy, the master chief entered Musselman’s quarters and closed the door behind him. “I was immediately taken aback because he had tears in his eyes,” Musselman remembers. “He said: ‘26 years in the SEALs teams, and what am I going to do now?’”

Overwrought with emotion, Musselman came to this quick conclusion: “I couldn’t be one of them anymore, but I could certainly help this one who was standing right in front of me.”

Musselman spent the next 90 days working one-on-one with his friend to craft a resume and prepare for interviews, translating the master chief’s years of experience, which included speaking multiple languages, working in 50 different countries, piloting planes and helicopters, and leading commands of 500 to 1,500 people, into marketable job skills. When his friend was hired, “then I became addicted to that feeling of service,” he says.

Musselman had found his calling—the motivation for his next dream job: CEO and founder of The Honor Foundation.

Unique Challenge

Now three years after its launch, THF has placed 233 of its carefully selected “fellows” into private- and public-sector careers, having led each of them through 150 hours of intense executive-style education, professional development, and one-on-one career coaching and mentoring, while educating employers on how the veterans’ skill sets translate to the business sector.

THF and the US Special Operations Forces community it serves continue to face a unique challenge. “These are people who are so deeply underground—for 15, 20, in some cases 30 years—and they’re told not to say who they are, what they do, how they do it, where they do it, and why they do it,” Musselman explains. “And then they come out and an employer asks them: ‘What did you do, how did you do it, why did you do it, who did you do it with?’ Why are we surprised that of our nation’s top 1% of veterans, only 13% of them have jobs when they leave the service?”

It’s no secret that all veterans can find the transition to civilian life difficult. “When they come in, a lot of their resumes look like what most of the American public thinks of when they think of the military—this guy spent 10 years kicking down doors or sleeping in the desert somewhere,” one of Oracle’s veterans recruiters told me a year ago. (Oracle is partnering with THF and other organizations that serve veterans to ensure their smooth transition from public service to the private sector.) “We help them to translate those skills, so if they worked in, say, operations in the military, then they can work in operations, supply chain management, and those types of roles in the civilian world.”

In preparing its veterans for meaningful careers, the THF’s team of trainers, coaches, and mentors naturally plays up their special attributes—honor, courage, commitment—while “dismantling their fear that they’re not worthy of new connections,” Musselman says. “We ask them to tell a story of who they are, with their whole heart.”

THF’s approach apparently is working: It has achieved a 97% placement rate for its job-seeking graduates, not a surprise, he says, given the “extraordinary starting DNA we get to work with.”

Watch the 34-minute video below for a deeper look into Musselman’s extraordinary experiences and his foundation’s extraordinary work. Visit Oracle’s Experience Inspiration site for compelling video-recorded presentations by other business and technology leaders.

Rob Preston is editorial director in Oracle’s Content Central organization.

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