BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

Break Through Achieved for Women Veterans

Posted by YWM on May 25, 2011

This is part two of a two part article on a special training session for women veterans.

By Monica Chenault-Kilgore

Tell me three positive things about yourself. 

In the sessions and days that followed participants were asked to stand up and energetically state three positive adjectives that best describe themselves.  The catch:  they could not repeat an adjective that someone else had said. Knowing that the task would get harder if you waited to respond, one woman jumped up, I am smart, friendly, and professional.”  The next stood up and proudly stated, “I am dependable, a team player and helpful.”   I wrote all their responses on the white board.

As we moved around the room it became harder and harder for some to come up with three unused positive adjectives.  (We drifted away from adjectives a bit and the responses became more short phrases)  Something interesting began to happen in this short span of time.  The group began to help each other with positive responses, even adding a few more than three examples.  If someone hesitated, another would add, “You can say you are capable…computer literate…a good counselor…creative…detail oriented.”  The list of positive adjectives and attributes grew long, but most importantly, group members who initially distanced themselves from others by sitting in the back or using the seats around them to build invisible fortresses, spoke up to provide positive reinforcement for their veteran sisters.

Although we went on to explore communication skills, write accomplishment oriented resumes, practice interview skills and discuss job search strategies, we kept that list of positive adjectives on the board throughout the  sessions as a reminder.

Over the four sessions, the group voluntarily discussed their personal and professional challenges as we went through various topics.  The sessions evolved to group brainstorming tackling issues ranging from how to best apply newly learned communication strategies to how to resolve long standing family issues, or use a current peer leadership role as experience for a resume, and how to grow an idea into a profitable business.  We shared stories of rejection and situations that didn’t go as planned in order to recognize how negative experiences are also earning lessons and a natural part of the process of moving toward success.

One participant stated that she hadn’t worked outside of the home for a long time and didn’t feel she had any experience on how to go about finding a job.  After participating in the discussions and exercises on identifying accomplishments, she said that she enjoyed, and is extremely good at, cleaning.  She expressed a desire to start her own cleaning business and took the initiative to find information on programs supporting women entrepreneurs. She also stated she could start by getting referrals from people she had provided cleaning services in the past. 

Lessons Learned: What Worked…

To help create a comfortable learning environment that contributed to the programs success in building confidence and self-esteem, materials were presented in a manner that:

Maintaining or Enhancing Self Esteem

Take time to visualize, acknowledge, write out and share skills and abilities learned from military experience in order to transfer value, build a strong resume and interview to compete for job opportunities.

Listening and Share Feelings and Rationale

“It was good that you asked us…allowed us to talk.”

Create a safe environment for open dialogue to discuss practical applications of newly learned development tools.  Doing so helps veteran sisters to trust and build supportive networks to learn about opportunities for jobs, and access resources and services.

Ask for Help and Encourage Involvement of Others

Asking for help can be difficult particularly if the act of asking is seen as a position of weakness.  Building confidence, setting SMART, inspirational goals and examining the art of communication helps our veterans move forward from a position of strength by rephrasing “asking for help” to seeking valuable information to facilitate transition.

Build Ownership and Self-Confidence by providing Support without removing Responsibility for Action.  

Set the tone.  State that the outcome of the sessions rests with the participant’s commitment to continuous improvement and learning.  Give plenty of homework that involves self-assessment, writing and sharing.  Use every opportunity to have participants articulate their goal.  We ended the sessions with each participant completing a Motivation/Career Goals Questionnaire.  Participants completed the statements:

In the future, I want…

The chances of this happening are…

The first thing I need to do in order to achieve this is…

It was an honor and privilege for this civilian to serve the veterans at Mary E. Walker House who defended our country.  The program, on paper, was one that integrated exercises to identify accomplishments and build confidence with traditional job attainment strategies – resume writing and interviewing skills.  The learning sessions were to be an informative series of workshops that  bolster self esteem re-energize efforts to overcome obstacles to adjusting to civilian life and secure a position of most opportunity for a satisfying career.  The program became a rewarding opportunity for all of us to embark upon a new path of personal and professional growth.

 About the Author: Monica Chenault-Kilgore, PHR

As a trainer, coach and challenge-driven human resources consultant for over 18 years, Monica Chenault-Kilgore has helped individuals move through every phase of their career and assisted major private and public sector organizations build human capital to achieve stabilization and business continuity.

Monica founded The Chenault Group, a human resources consulting consortium and has held positions ranging from HR Internal Consultant with The New York Times Production Division, Director of the nationally recognized Retail Skills Center, HR Director for The Image Bank, and served as SME on numerous global curriculum and certification design initiatives.  Monica holds her BA in Journalism from The Ohio State University, and Professional Human Resources (PHR) Certification from Human Resources   Certification Institute.

       Email:  Monica.kilgore@thechenaultgroup.com   http://www.thechenaultgroup.com   Twitter: @thechenaultgrp

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