Col. Chuck Hamel wasn’t looking for love as he moved from table to table every 10 minutes, hoping for the perfect match.
After 42 years in the military, the current commander of 41 Canadian Brigade Group was looking for a new career to take up once he retires from the Canadian Forces.
Employers and military personnel were attending a meet-and-greet in Calgary on Friday organized by Canada Company, a charitable, non-partisan organization that serves to connect business and community leaders with the Canadian military.
Widely described as “speed-dating” by those involved, employers and veterans spent a few minutes meeting one another before the order was given to move to the next table. About 50 businesses were on hand to meet with soldiers who are interested in new career paths.
“I’m trying to settle in and make the transition from my military career, which was a long one with lots of adventure and absolutely no regrets,” said Hamel. “But I want to transition over to the corporate world.”
Veterans face tough challenges getting through interviews and articulating what kind of skills they bring to an employer.
“I think it’s acknowledging that they have skill sets and they’re very valuable skill sets ... more than they can possibly imagine. The leadership training that we offer in the forces is second to none and not a lot of corporations devote that much capital to leadership training of their own,” Hamel said.
Target was one of the businesses looking for qualified candidates with military training. Gabriel Granatstein, senior counsel, employee and labour relations for the retail chain, spent years in the Canadian Forces reserves.
“I think there is a problem in helping both employers and candidates that are from the military ... translate those skills and so it’s an educational issue,” said Granatstein.
“Everybody in the military, regardless of whether you’re an officer or a (non-commissioned officer) — you are a leader and you’re expected to be a leader. Employers can really benefit from that. They just have to understand what it is and where it’s coming from.”
Angela Mondou, the president of Canada Company, is a former air force captain who spent nine years in the military and worked as a peacekeeper in the former Yugoslavia.
“I can’t imagine actually being the president of this organization and not having worn a uniform for so many reasons, but generally just the depth of understanding I have when I’m working with our colleagues in (the Department of National Defence) or Veterans Affairs,” she said.
“I’ve been in war zones and I transitioned myself. I understand what we’re delivering and supporting.”
Mondou said it can be difficult to figure out what skills a veteran has obtained while serving and how they might translate into the business world.
“The difficulty in writing your resume, knowing where to start, is understanding how to take what you do and put it in a language that’s understood by an employer ... It’s all the things that the military member hasn’t had as much experience doing as a civilian member who might change their career more often.”
Ovais Ahmed, a former master corporal from Toronto with two tours in Afghanistan, said it’s hard to make the transition from the Canadian Forces to the business world. He said it’s all about making contacts.
“I’m hear to give confirmation to all these employers that ... I’m your return investment. If you take the opportunity to sign these guys on board ... along with others from the armed forces, will be your future employees and might be the (commanding officer) of your company some day,” Ahmed said.
“We have a value and we have a level of training that is unique, especially in today’s work force.”