I met Melissa Washington after a recent speech of mine. I was so impressed with how she parlayed her military background into helping other female veterans find their own dream careers that I couldn’t help but dedicate an entire hour to her work.
Washington is the dictionary definition of a strong woman. She has leadership, expertise, positivity and determination. I am honored to know her.
That’s why I support Washington’s work.
After proudly serving her country in the Navy, Melissa Washington earned her bachelor’s degree in business management and made the transition into a successful career in staffing and recruiting for more than 10 years, working for both boutique agencies and global Fortune 500 companies.
She runs Women Veterans Alliance, the fastest-growing organization for female veterans. It’s focused on career and professional development.
Randi Zuckerberg: When you were in the Navy, did you know you wanted to run your own business and help others do the same?
Melissa Washington: Not specifically. When I joined the Navy, I was young and fresh out of one year at junior college, where I was working on my degree in early childhood education. During my time in the Navy, there was a lot of figuring out what I wanted to do and not do.
RZ: What skills do veterans possess that make them natural business leaders?
MW: Veterans epitomize these attributes: adaptable, committed, confidence, determination, disciplined, flexible, focus, leadership, quick problem-solvers in intense situations, resilience, respectful, task-focused, team players, trainable.
RZ: Seeing as post-traumatic stress disorder affects more than 18 percent of veterans returning from active duty, what advice do you have for vets entering the business world on how to avoid stressful workplace environments?
MW: Be prepared, as at times it may be unavoidable. Have different modalities that work for you to handle stress. Don’t let PTSD be a barrier to transitioning into a civilian career.
MW: In today’s world, having an online presence is essential. On LinkedIn, once you create a profile, you have created your online brand, which allows you to market yourself, in addition to your business.
It gives you credibility, whether you are looking for a job or looking to do business with someone. It’s a gold mine of data. With LinkedIn, it becomes about who you know and they know.
RZ: Do you think female veterans have a harder time getting hired than their male vet counterparts? If so, what can be done to combat this?
MW: Yes and no. Lots has to do with women veterans not understanding their “full worth” and how all of their great skills and attributes can be transferred into a career.
There are ways to combat this:
- Getting women connected with mentors even before they get out of the service.
- Help women to better understand the types of opportunities that are out there in all sectors.
- Connect women directly with employers (hiring managers and recruiters).
- Conduct a coaching session to give them confidence to overcome the stereotypes that have been placed on veterans. Then how to deal with those effectively and professionally.
- Join Women Veterans Alliance.
— Randi Zuckerberg is the founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, a best-selling author and the host of a SiriusXM weekly tech business show, Randi Zuckerberg Means Business. Follow her on Twitter: @randizuckerberg or connect with her on Facebook. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.