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Why I Do What I Do: Reflections on Veterans Day

A few weeks ago, I introduced a blog series I was planning on the “Whys” in our life, and more specifically why we do what we do professionally. Today is Veterans Day and I’ve decided to run the post that I planned to run last in the series, with a few changes. The series hasn’t run yet because, well, things happen. In particular, I’ve had too much fun blogging about my takes on authenticity in your professional life and promoting the fantastic events I’ve been doing with Keith Petri of But I think today is a fitting day to reflect on this.

So how does “Why I Do What I Do” relate to Veterans Day? Many readers may not be aware, but 10% of The Opportunities Project’s revenues go toward a scholarship fund to provide free career coaching for female veterans who want assistance transitioning into the civilian workforce. I am doing this because I respect the leadership and skills that the military teaches people- they far eclipse those taught by the best business school- and because it feels deeply personal to me. This is a recent thing- I haven’t had a life-long love for the military. My grandfathers were veterans but they never talked about it. My parents are liberal anti-war types and I inherited much of that view. I remember a military recruiter called our house once in high school and I laughed my ass off- I was an alternateen who wrote poems and worshipped Sylvia Plath- me in the military? Seriously, no.

The Opportunities Project supports their friends who served in the military this Veteran's Day. But I have a childhood friend who is like my sister that I reconnected with through Facebook almost two years ago. I went away to college and stopped coming home for breaks and she went to community college and moved around a lot. This was before everyone had an email address and we lost touch. When we found each other, I learned that she had joined the Army at 27 and it had changed her life. She now counsels soldiers who are returning from war or changing posts and I’ve learned a lot about what our young veterans sacrifice and what they gain. I’ve since visited her in two places that her and her family have been stationed and met more people who have served in Iraq than I ever thought I would. So one of the reasons I am giving back to our veterans is to honor the work that this woman I love has done to make things better for people who have signed up to serve our country.

Female veterans can apply for free career coaching from The Opportunities Project.(Fun fact- that first picture was taken with a Polaroid in 1993 in Martha’s Vineyard. That second picture was taken in 2010 in Savannah with an Android mobile phone. Fascinating to me for some reason.)

On the flip side, while I think there is no better education than the military, it angers me that so many 18 year olds feel that their only economic choice is to enlist. Two years ago, I watched The Recruiter, an HBO documentary about one of the most successful Army recruiters in our country and his efforts to recruit Louisiana high school students (unfortunately, it’s not available on ITunes). It was one of the most thought-provoking documentaries I have ever seen and a far better statement on the failures of our American education system than Waiting for Superman will ever be. Most of the students profiled in the movie were enlisting because it was their only professional and educational option after high school. The recruiter knew that and worked extra hard to make sure every one of them met the requirements for enlistment. I think that the filmmakers wanted me to think of the recruiter poorly for some of the ways he seemed to trick kids, but I loved this man for making sure they didn’t let this opportunity pass. I found the interviews with female recruits especially moving and I realized that this has sat with for me a while because I desperately wanted to make the world better for these young women. Hopefully, I can through coaching.

Yesterday, Penelope Trunk of Brazen Careerist ran a blog post on why we should cancel Veteran’s Day. Even if it was not a controversial issue, her thoughts come off as immature, whining, and unrelated. I am not quite sure how her mommy and daddy issues are relevant to whether the United States should collectively celebrate Veterans Day. I do agree that we should be talking about how our education system fails so many people and that many people in uniform (including firemen and police) could be more grounded in the struggles civilians face. I think our military budget is way too high. But none of this should demean the experience of soldiers who serve our country in the least. Our thoughts should focus on how we can do more for these people every day, not how we can also serve ourselves.

So that is “Why” I do one of the things I do. Information on the scholarship program details will be coming as I get more clients. And in the meantime, for a great post on veterans and their careers, read ERE’s take today.

If you’d like to guest post on Why You Do What You Do, please comment or contact me. I welcome a diversity of voices.

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Alumna in the House

Very excited about two events today!

The other 2/3 of The Opportunities Project team- Maddie and Eve- will be at the Idealist Grad School Fair today at the Puck Building in Soho. We will be having a Public Service Edition of the Cocktails and Careers Tour at Puck Bar across the street at 7:30 PM for people who want to learn more about getting into public service careers, with or without a master’s degree. The Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University, where I got my MPA in public finance, is hosting the fair. I had a great education at Wagner so check our their stuff at the fair and then come talk to Maddie and Eve about what we can do for you in taking your next step in public service.

Check out the details for the Puck Bar event.

I am not attending this special stop on the Cocktails and Careers Tour because I am hosting a table at the Syracuse University SUccess in the City event tonight in midtown. One big reason I started my business for college students and recent graduates is that my experience as an undergrad at Syracuse was incredibly transformational for me. I am excited to help students and even more excited that Syracuse is giving me an opportunity to give away a coaching package to a recent college graduate at the event tonight. Even though I had a great experience at NYU, I will always primarily be an Orangewoman at heart. One look at Otto and my heart melts.