After graduating from West Point and spending 11 years in the Army, Rick Lochner had a bit of an identity crisis when entering corporate America for the first time.
"I was scared to death," he says. "... I knew nothing but the Army lifestyle. It was a big mind shift to go from military culture to being a civilian."
Lochner eventually made a successful adjustment. Today, he is an accomplished leadership and business coach with his own firm, and volunteers as president of Literacy DuPage and chair of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce Speakers Bureau.
Helping returning veterans also is a cause that remains close to his heart. Lochner will be the keynote speaker at TrainZitions 2010, an event that aims to help transitioning veterans within 10 years of service to build job seeking, networking and interviewing skills.
The free event, sponsored by connectVETS.org and Directions Training in Oak Brook, will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 12, at Mid-America Club in the Aon Center, 200 E. Randolph St., 80th floor, in Chicago. The day features sessions on networking, resume building and interviewing, as well as breakfast, lunch and a happy hour. Visit www.connectvets.org to register or call (847) 980-7222 or (630) 590-6557.
Returning vets face special challenges in the job hunt, says speaker Bob Lambert, a Navy veteran from Libertyville who will talk about job sourcing and social networking.
"They've been used to everyone telling them what to do," he says. "When you get out into the marketplace, people aren't doing that. You have to understand how to interface with that. More importantly, what value do you have to bring to that employer?"
Veterans offer unique qualifications, like discipline and a mission-oriented, can-do-attitude, leaders say, though many don't understand how to convey that to potential employers.
"We in the military typically don't interview for jobs," Lochner says. "We're handed a piece of paper and told, 'Be here.' You develop a mindset of 'I can do what I'm asked to do, just give me a mission and the tools and point me in the right direction.' We want military members to know they bring a lot of skills to the table that they might not even be aware of."
In a tough job market, it's more critical than ever for veterans to stand out, business leaders say. "You've got to quickly understand what you've got in your own pocket and how you can leverage it to find your best opportunity," Lochner says.
Organizers also hope to get a message across to recruiters. "You have a gold mine sitting here in these veterans," Lochner says. "You may be overlooking some of the best resources you have available and not even know it."