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4 tips for vets from SVA's new chief

Jan. 31, 2014 - 10:23AM   |  
SVA Robinson MWM 20140110
D. Wayne Robinson brings his skills as a retired Army command sergeant major to Student Veterans of America in his role as president and CEO. (Mike Morones/Staff)
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Student Veterans of America’s new president and chief executive officer, D. Wayne Robinson, has big plans for the group’s future.

Among them: managing the organization’s growth to make sure it remains as beneficial as ever to individual vets; collaborating with the Veterans Affairs Department to track GI Bill users’ academic success; and setting up a network for student vets to connect with companies.

But his ideas aren’t limited to running SVA. Robinson, who took the job in October, was a member of SVA’s Honorary Board of Advisors and left Drexel Hamilton Investment Partners to take the job in Washington working on behalf of veterans.

In an interview during SVA’s national conference in January, Robinson had some helpful tips for transitioning vets.

1. School and degree quality matter

“Be an informed consumer of your education benefits,” Robinson said.

For enlisted troops, education can be merely the path to a promotion, Robinson said. Whether one school’s degree may be better suited to individual interests, long-term goals or learning needs may be of limited importance.

For vets, the opposite is true.

“Don’t just get a degree to check a block. That’s different than what we’ve heard throughout our career, because we were looking to get degrees — on the enlisted side — to be able to check a block and get promoted, or to qualify for a promotion,” Robinson said. “You want to be able to utilize that [degree].”

2. Push through

Higher education can present unfamiliar challenges for vets. But, Robinson said, one skill that service members picked up in the military will come in handy: perseverance.

“Push through. Don’t stop at the first ‘no,’ ” he said.

3. Reach out

“Prior to transitioning, reach out to other vets who already have transitioned, in colleges, in communities,” Robinson said.

Search the networking site LinkedIn for people with military backgrounds who are already in the field — or even at the company — where you want to end up. They may be able to offer advice or even help you snag a job or internship.

Robinson said his transition was harder because he didn’t do this.

“I went out and re-invented the wheel, only to find out that the wheel was already up and running,” he said.

4. Look into internships

These are sometimes overlooked but offer the opportunity to try a career path or a company without making a long-term commitment, Robinson said.

“That’s a piece of the puzzle. ... It’s that upper-right piece, where it looks like the picture is complete, but there is actually a piece that’s very important that’s missing, and it’s that internship.”

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