“Veterans offer businesses an immediate level of professionalism and maturity. They enhance the workplace. They’ve seen and experienced things not found in the typical business environment and they evaluate challenges from a different perspective that can’t be taught.”
So says our 2023 Distinguished Service Awards Keynote speaker, Dr. Linda Singh, Major General (Retired). We recently spoke with Dr. Singh about her story and the impact veterans have on the business world:
“Outside of war, the military and business worlds are not so different. Handling operations, delivering on commitments, and managing employees are all similar skill sets. The stakes are different in the military, but the same learned skills can be parlayed into a business environment. The military has taught me to be constantly in learning mode. Situations change everywhere, but in a military setting, there is often an added risk layer. The military teaches us to constantly add new skills and adapt to changing situations.”
She believes that adaptability benefits both veterans and the greater business community. “Veterans often have an entrepreneurial spirit. They come out of the military with the skills that will propel them forward. They want to make an impact. They want their efforts to have value. They want to build something.”
Dr. Singh knows whereof she speaks, having built two high-ranking careers for herself within the military and corporate worlds. A 38-year veteran of the Maryland National Guard, she achieved the rank of Major General and became the Maryland Military Department’s Adjutant General and a Cabinet Secretary. She held a 21-year career with Accenture, where she was the Managing Director in the Health and Public Service North America Operating Unit, before founding her own Kaleidoscope Affect, LLC.
Recruited at a shopping mall as a homeless high school dropout, Dr. Singh credits the recruiter and the military for, “saving my life.” She quickly discovered her own leadership skills during basic training when, at the age of 17, she found herself the Senior Squad Leader over 40 women. “At that time, I wasn’t thinking about what it means to be a leader. I stepped right into it. The military allowed me to learn and build a portfolio of skills that I later applied to the business world.”
Dr. Singh has carried the skills she learned in the military throughout her own career. “What I value now and the leadership skills I have today can be traced back to my time in the military. I’ve pulled knowledge from every aspect of my life, but my core values such as what I want my business to stand for and the kind of employees I hire can all be traced back to the military.”
As with any career or life change, transitioning from the military to the business world can be stressful. Dr. Singh urges everyone, not just those in the military, to be mindful of their own wellbeing. “We all need personal care. Careers can take a toll and we all need to prioritize our health, including mental health. We can get caught up in work and our health will suffer.”
To help ease the transition and minimize stress, Dr. Singh suggests that the first step for any veteran transitioning to a new career is to ask, “what’s important to me”?
“I tell veterans they have a blank canvas in front of them. The question is, how do you want to paint it? What do you want your career to look like in the future?” She also recommends something she did herself: pulling apart the veterans resume and creating a skills list that can be matched with corporate buzz words, then reworking those military skills to fit a business environment.
For employers interested in hiring vets, she suggests easing the transition by clearly communicating roles and objectives. “Ask for help in understanding how a veteran’s skills can be applied to the business world.” There are many resources available to veterans and employers alike. “Both Hire Our Heroes and Easter Seals offer assistance programs. Easter Seals offers a Veterans Staffing Network where employers can find veteran employees."
“Veterans can take the best things they learned in the military and leverage them in business either as an employee or as an entrepreneur.”