After years of being in the military, making the leap to the civilian world can often be daunting for many veterans. However, thanks to the recently launched Soldier to Leader (Sol2Lead) Program, veterans now how have the tools to make the leap a success.
Founded by reservist, Master Warrant Officer Christopher Hennebery, the Sol2Lead Program invites veterans who have an idea of what they want their next career to be to sign up and find a mentor, an individual with years of experience under their belt in that particular field. This mentor can guide the veteran and explain the steps needed to be successful in that career.
All veterans have to do is sign up and indicate which field is of interest to them as their next career. They are then paired with a civilian mentor.
Once a veteran signs up, Hannebery says, the first priority is to ensure that the veteran has the right field of expertise for their desired career. The hope is to match them with someone locally or regionally, but Hennebery assures that the program works long distance as well.
Veterans can look for mentors in a wide variety of careers.
“You get a long-haul trucker, a chocolatier. We had someone who wanted to be a professor at a university. You get everything,” said the retired Master Warrant Officer.
If there isn’t a mentor already signed up for the field a veteran chooses, Hennebery and his team take it upon themselves to find someone within their network.
The program, Hennbery emphasizes, is not a job service as there are plenty of other organizations that help pair veterans with a job.
“Our focus is to find them the right person, that’s where the majority of where our effort goes, and once we find the right person it’s really up to the mentor and the veteran to setup a time to chat and meet up,” explained Hennebery.
The job of the mentor is to share their expertise, experience and network with the veteran.
“If they share these three things, that’s a huge component that the veterans don’t have,” noted Hennebery.
Hennebery, using his experience in the software industry, launched the website this past June. In a few short months, the program gained traction and has over 200 mentors and a little more than 75 veterans.
It all began a few years ago when Hennebery was approached by an Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) member who knew of a fellow soldier transitioning and wanted to be a tattoo artist. Hennebery, who also has a background in the arts and has an extensive civilian network, set out to help this transitioning member. Along with providing his art expertise, he contacted more than 20 tattoo parlours in the Vancouver area and was able to narrow down one parlour that agreed to meet with the veteran and mentor him.
This veteran now has an apprenticeship, is working on his certification and is actually tattooing.
“He’s kind of living his dream now,” said Hennebery.
The experience gave Hennebery the realization that after decades of being in the military, veterans often do not have the connections in the civilian world to transition into a new career.
“I realized with my friends who were getting out that there was this kind of disconnect, there are great services on the veterans side for those transitioning, but one thing that did not exist was something that would align the veterans with someone in that career that they wanted to get into,” recalled Hennebery.
Hennebery hopes that he can continue to smooth out any kinks in the program and cast a wider net to better enable veterans in successful transitioning. As part of this process, Hennebery hopes to sign up 2,000 mentors in the coming year.
If you’re a veteran and would like to sign up for Sol2Lead or would like to sign up as a mentor, click here.