One-on-One: Veterans program builds on military expertise and experience

Adjusting to change can be hard. Moving, starting a family or going back to school are difficult transitions. Returning to civilian life after spending time in the military is equally, if not more challenging, especially when it comes to getting a job.

King County’s Vets 4 HIRE Fellowship Program tackles this issue head on, allowing veterans to transition to civilian life by connecting them with skill-building experiences at King County. With each department able to identify and create a fellowship position, the opportunities are endless. Furthermore, the Veteran and Human Services Levy will reimburse departments a portion of the veteran’s wages.  Veterans can pursue their passions, learn about County priorities, and gain the knowledge and skills to succeed in their future careers.

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Current veteran Fellow Fred Seaton

One veteran currently benefiting from the program is Fred Seaton. With a combined 28 years of experience in both the Air Force and Coast Guard, Fred knew he was ready for a transition. He thought King County would be a great place to start, so he kept his eyes open for an opportunity.

“I looked at the King County job site almost every day, thinking ‘Is there anything new?’” he said. “One day last October I saw a position specifically for veterans and thought ‘Wow’, so I applied.”

Fred was selected for a position in Human Resources as he did similar work during his time in the Coast Guard. His working title is Business Outreach Coordinator in the Department of Executive Services, and his main duties are related to further developing and expanding the Fellowship Program. He explains that while the application process felt just like a normal job, his military background and volunteer experience with the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) was considered a strength.

“We talked about my resume and my skill set, so it did feel like a common interview,” he said. “But there was a specific focus on how to connect my military skills and background to the work I would be doing in the fellowship.”

“From what I see in my position as a veteran fellow, it seems like everyone feels a sense of purpose in their work and with each other, and it shows.”

The program aligns with the County’s goal to become the Best-Run government in the country and also furthers King County’s impact as a Veteran-Ready employer. As such, King County values the skills and capabilities that veterans offer as well as their demonstrated commitment to serve, recognizing that veterans create a diverse, successful workforce, and in turn a more efficient King County.

Supervisors and managers have noted this, and are pleased with the qualities and attributes a veteran brings to their organization.

“Veterans are very well trained and ready to jump into many situations. They work well on teams and independently,” said Despina Strong, Industrial Waste Program Manager, and supervisor of a veteran fellow.

Despina shares how her program has been impacted by her veteran fellow, and the reactions of the other employees.

“We’ve been impressed with our fellow’s ability to stay calm under pressure,” she said. “Several staff have even commented on this point.”

“We believe her military experience and training provided her with very pertinent skills for the workplace.”

From one department to another, supervisors have praise for their veteran fellows, noting especially leadership and project management skills, among others.

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Veterans bring valuable skills, perspective and energy to the workforce and to a team.

“Veterans are highly motivated employees that are task oriented. They are essentially looking for their next mission to accomplish,” said Al Dams, Chief Deputy Assessor. “They have a desire to succeed, and are eager to learn and to get the job done in a resourceful way.”

“And they are really fun people to work with!” he adds.

The King County Vets 4 HIRE Fellowship Program encourages veterans from all fields to highlight their military experiences, and utilize the skills they developed while in the service. For more information about the program, visit www.kingcounty.gov/Vets4HIRE. If you are interested in creating a fellowship experience, please talk with your department HR staff.

To learn about the variety of services and benefits available to veterans, spouses and their dependents, attend the next “Be Informed! Veteran Services and Benefits” workshop held on Wednesday, May 18.