Veterans Day is celebrated annually in the United States on November 11, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. This holiday started as a day to reflect upon the heroism of those who died in the line of service during World War I but now celebrates all veterans in all wars.
In honor of Veterans Day, and the amazing men and women who have and continue to serve in the United States Military, we invited Brien Derrick, recruitment operations manager at WilsonHCG, to talk about his 22 years of service in the United States Air Force and his transition to the civilian workforce.
Q: Can you walk us through your career in the United States Air Force?
I joined the United States Air Force in 1999 as a command and control specialist, working with airlift and nuclear command and control operations as well as emergency action plans during natural disasters and wartime. Then, in 2009, I was promoted to manager of command and control operations, moved to Spain and oversaw the integration of Spanish, US Navy and US Air Force lift operations. Then, in 2013, I moved back to the US and took on a new role as Air Force space command, inspector general. I planned command and control inspections in over 100 global locations and ensured that we complied with Department of Defense, Headquarters Air Force and Major Command requirements. From there, I was promoted to my last position, transportation command manager, where I managed a team of 39 service professionals that were responsible for day-to-day nuclear command, control and communication operations. I retired from the military in January of 2022.
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a career in recruiting?
At one point during my career in the military, I fell into a special operations task force that was being built up for the first time. Essentially, we were building a unit over the course of a year that specialized in recruiting intelligence officers, cyber security officers, offensive cyber operators and defensive cyber operators. It was a lot of fun. I loved being able to work so closely with leadership to identify what their needs and priorities were and connect with people who were interested in joining the unit. It’s what inspired me to pursue a career in recruiting.
Q: Why was WilsonHCG the right fit for you?
Once I decided to pursue a career in recruiting, the next step was beginning my job search. I applied for positions at a lot of different companies but WilsonHCG was always at the top of my list. I knew that the transition from military life to civilian life was going to be challenging so I wanted to make sure I found a company that had an inclusive and supportive culture. I knew that was something I could find at WilsonHCG, especially after learning about its commitment to veteran initiatives and its participation in the Hiring Our Heroes program.
Q: What is Hiring Our Heroes?
Hiring Our Heroes is a 12-week Corporate Fellowship Program organized by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation that is committed to helping veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses find employment through management training and hands-on experience in the workforce. I had the opportunity to participate in WilsonHCG’s Hiring Our Heroes spring 2022 cohort and really enjoyed it. I used it as a chance to improve myself and looked at every single day as a new learning opportunity. I was offered a full-time position that started immediately after my graduation in April.
Q: When you look back on your transition, what has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
I would say one of the biggest challenges has been learning how to take ownership. In the military, it was ingrained in us to never take credit for the work we were doing. Giving myself a pat on the back or focusing on what “I” accomplished would have been frowned upon. Instead, we were taught to focus on what “we” accomplished as a team and as a unit. So, when I started my transition from active military to the civilian workforce, I had to look back on the 22 years I spent in the Air Force and take credit for what I did to contribute to its success. In other words, I had to learn how to take ownership of my accomplishments; I also had to learn how to translate those accomplishments on resumes and in interviews and how to highlight the hard skills and soft skills that I bring to the table.
Q: What advice would you give to someone transitioning out of the military?
I highly recommend participating in the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program. If you get accepted into the program, work as hard as you can, and don’t stop until the last day of your cohort. Every day is an interview, so if your goal is to get a full-time job offer at the end of it, make sure your actions align with that. Most importantly, don’t let anyone stop you from trying to learn or discourage you from trying your best.
I would also recommend connecting with Military Transition Roundtable. It’s a small nonprofit that provides mentorship and career coaching to veterans transitioning out of the military. During my transition, I met with them once a week; we would go over wins and challenges and they would hold me accountable for my goals and objectives for that week. I really appreciated having someone I could talk to who understood what I was going through and could offer constructive feedback.