We all know how tough even small transitions can be, but navigating life-changing transitions—such as from military service to civilian life, or from foster care to adult independence—is especially difficult. Improving these critical transitions is at the heart of our work at the Schultz Family Foundation because we know what’s at stake.

Without effective support leading up to, during and following these pivotal times, far too many of our veterans and young people fall through the cracks. They miss the opportunity to pursue a healthy and productive life, and all of us are denied the benefits of their untapped potential. We miss out on their leadership abilities, their desire to work hard, and the unique perspectives they bring to our companies and communities. From a purely practical level, it costs much more to help people get back on track later than it does to proactively provide the supports that set them up for success.

The good news is there are several approaches showing great promise that I’m excited to share. At their core, they’re fundamental to all of us, especially when we are faced with challenges and change. First, everyone needs to start somewhere. Without guidance, developing a resume, filling out applications and navigating the job search process are daunting and can become barriers to forward movement. Second, it’s important to build upon your base. Training and certifications help grow competencies and confidence. And third, it’s critical to connect with the right support at the right time. This is where a mentor, trusted advisor or job coach can make the difference.

At the Schultz Family Foundation, we’ve seen firsthand how these three building blocks are making a real and lasting difference in the lives of Post 9/11 Veterans and their families, as well as with Opportunity Youth—young people who are neither working nor in school.

Teaching job search skills

Learning job search skills—such as resume building and interview prep—is essential. That’s why the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative held job fairs for Opportunity Youth in seven cities that provided not only the chance to meet employers, but career support services, too. A young mother who attended the fair said she was motivated to get a job, but needed help with the steps to get there. At the event, she created a resume, practiced interviewing, gained confidence, and was offered positions with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Marsh & McLennan Companies and Sheraton Hotel.

To expand our reach farther, we created JobLaunch.org, a virtual job fair that connects young people—wherever they live—with their first job. The website also offers mentorship and training opportunities, and job-hunting resources that are accessible year-round.

In addition, we organized the first online National Youth Hiring Day. In one day, young talent from across the country learned job search and interview skills, created vesumes (video resumes) and applied for openings with employers including Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Five Guys, Hyatt, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, Sixt rent a car, Starbucks, T-Mobile and Ulta Beauty.

Building competence and confidence

Supplementing skills or credentials can be crucial to increasing self-esteem and opening career pathways. For example, we helped launch Onward to Opportunity (O2O) to provide additional training and certifications to transitioning service members and their spouses beginning six months before their time in the military ends. Since the program’s inception in 2015, nearly 20,000 service members, veterans and military spouses in all 50 states and abroad have taken part, resulting in more than 11,000 transitioning to employment.

In fact, a white paper released in January showed O2O to be an exemplar case that could help to transform the transition experience for veterans. A former sergeant credited the program for providing, “key insights about what to expect going into the corporate world.” O2O allowed him to supplement his armed service experience as a cyber networks operator with earning a Certified Information Security Systems Professional credential. He is now an information security engineer at Booz Allen Hamilton.

Creating mentoring networks

Seeing the impact of trusted advisors is why we partnered with MENTOR last year to launch a program that helps Opportunity Youth start their career. Thanks to these relationships, young people are making—and maintaining—forward progress in their lives. Until they get involved, mentors often don’t realize that imparting experiences and skills they take for granted can be both personally rewarding and life-changing for someone else. One mentor—a graduate student at Emory University—was paired with a young woman living in Atlanta. Their interactions across several months helped the young woman start thinking about careers, develop a strategy to pursue openings and prepare for interviews, and ultimately secure her first-ever job at Amazon where she’s thriving.

Having a network of supports is also critical to transitioning service members and their families as they prepare to exit the military and find their next great job. One of our partners, Hire Heroes USA, is piloting a mentoring effort helping hundreds of veterans as they transition into the civilian workforce. Early evidence suggests that some of the most successful mentors are other veterans who experienced the transition themselves. In one such case, a mentor who is a veteran helped a transitioning military police officer translate her military skills and experience into competencies sought by the private sector. The mentee credited the program with giving her the confidence and tools to effectively communicate in job applications and during interviews, allowing her to launch a new career at FedEx.

What’s next

Whether it’s connecting veterans with purposeful careers or reigniting young people’s belief in their future, I am constantly inspired by my colleagues and our innovative partners. At the Schultz Family Foundation, we’re expanding existing collaborations and forming new ones, and are excited to have welcomed talented new team members. Together, we remain dedicated to helping as many people as possible better navigate transitions, improve their lives and reach their potential.

While we are encouraged by the progress that’s taking place, we’re still learning more every day about which approaches are effective, and how to use this information to scale to positively impact thousands more people. I learned early on though that some of the most important work happens one-on-one. That’s also where everyone can help and all of us are needed—whether it’s by being a mentor, volunteering, or hiring Opportunity Youth or Post 9/11 Veterans.

I thank you for your commitment, ideas and partnership. It is going to be an exciting and rewarding year.

All the Best,

Sheri Schultz
president and co-founder
Schultz Family Foundation

For more on the work of the Schultz Family Foundation and our grantees, please follow my LinkedIn page for regular blog posts and updates.