Banana Republic’s “Our Duty to You” program aims to help military veterans buy the right clothes to help set them up for job interviews. Last year, nearly 100,000 troops returned to the U.S. from serving in other countries.
The job market, of course, remains a tough one. Unemployment among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan is several points higher than the national average, and many veterans are having trouble transferring their skills into qualifications that attract employers.
Tell us a little about your background.
I am an Air Force veteran and recent college graduate. When I decided to separate from the military, I also decided to use my GI Bill and enter school full time.
While studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I struggled with the transition from the military to the civilian world. For instance, I found it difficult to relate to my fellow classmates who were 18-19 years old, and I was 26, married, and had vastly different life experiences. This frustration led me to a local peer-to-peer support of other student veterans at my school, called Vets for Vets, a chapter of SVA.
What did you learn through the group?
I learned how to better relate to my classmates, and many of the tips and tricks of being a full time college student. Working with this group, I realized that the transition is not just a process, but a state of mind.
For example, when I entered the military, I had to transition into that society. Its rules and mores were vastly different from the civilian society from which I came.
Basic training was the system designed to funnel people from different backgrounds into a single system. However, when I separated, I had to learn how to be a civilian again. Once I figured out that many of the concepts and principals in the military existed in the civilian world, just with a different vocabulary, I felt I could succeed. This is the same principal I applied to my job search, following graduation.
What kind of real benefits do you see for a program like “Our Duty to You?”
What I like to hear about programs like “Our Duty to You” is the increasing awareness of the civilian community to help us with our transition, such as what Gap Inc is doing here. It may not seem important, but just like the military, there are dress codes in the civilian world.
We had to wear the appropriate uniform for the appropriate occasion. Your job interview is important because that is when your prospective employer forms their first impression of you. Remember what you would think when you saw someone wearing their uniform incorrectly? It’s initiatives like these that may, hopefully, make a difference for veterans making their own transitions.