Boots to Suits: Mentoring Veterans for Careers

Veterans entering the workforce can face different challenges than the average job seeker. But not everyone can relate to the sometimes difficult transition from a military career to a civilian career. That’s where Boots to Suits: Professional Development program, a partnership between the Chamber and the University of Colorado Denver, comes in.

Boots to Suits, pairs veteran and active military students with business and public service professionals to provide transition and support services so that they may become leaders in our community.

We talked with Aaron Lowry, a student and Boots to Suits mentee, and his mentor Doug Ross senior, a staff engineer for Lockheed Martin.

Lowry has served in many military capacities, including in the 82nd Airborne Division, 2nd Infantry Division, the 2nd Ranger Battalion, Delta Force and has served as part of the Joint Staff. His service has taken him all over the United States, and abroad, including South Korea, the Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, the Levant and East Africa. Today, Lowry is pursuing his MBA at the University of Colorado Denver.

Taking Care of Business: What are some challenges you, as a veteran, have faced entering the workforce as a civilian?

Aaron Lowry: The biggest challenge I have experienced is how to translate military experience into attributes that would be attractive to civilian employers. It’s difficult to explain how serving overseas may contribute to helping a company achieve commercial success.

Chamber tip: Veterans possess similar soft skills as many civilian employees – strong communication skills, adaptability, positive attitude and a willingness to learn, just to name a few. They just have a different foundation for acquiring those skills. Boots to Suits works with veterans to develop their military experience into a digestible résumé to increase their chances of being hired.

TCB: What strengths do you think yourself, and other veterans, possess that you feel other employees might not?

Lowry: I believe veterans typically have a high degree of self-discipline. I also believe veterans have great perspective. Having endured austere conditions, veterans are typically focused on what matters and not distracted by peripheral details.

TCB: What should companies know when hiring veterans?

Lowry: Companies should know that they are hiring selfless employees who want to be inspired. Having served in the military, I believe veterans are ideal employees, but they desire strong, positive leadership.

TCB: What advice do you have for other veterans seeking employment?

Lowry: Veterans should not feel entitled to any special treatment. There are plenty of highly qualified men and women seeking employment, and veterans must compete on their own merits.

TCB: Where do you see yourself once you’ve completed your degrees?

Lowry: I’d like to successfully transition to the commercial sector into a job that I am passionate about –one where I can contribute and be a meaningful part of the company.

TCB: In what ways has Boots to Suits been beneficial in achieving your employment goals?

Lowry: Boots to Suits connected me with a former military officer, Doug Ross, who has successfully transitioned to the civilian sector. His mentorship has helped me better understand my options post-retirement and helped me determine what I want to do.

Ross: Each relationship is different, but they all center around getting connected, discussing problems, sharing perspectives and having a sounding board for career goals. I’ve been a mentor with Boots to Suits for almost three years now and have really enjoyed talking with veteran mentees about their unique experiences and helping guide them through the transition into their next careers. Everyone can benefit from a mentoring relationship.

Join us tonight at the Boots to Suits Anniversary Salute presented by Comcast as we salute this year’s cohort and welcome future participants. You’ll also have the chance to learn how you can volunteer and make a difference to our service men and women transitioning into professional careers.

Bridget Garcia is the senior public affairs specialist for the Denver Metro Chamber.