Dawn Halfaker understands the importance of hiring veterans. As the CEO of Halfaker & Associates, a security consulting company in Washington, D.C., and as a disabled veteran herself, she actively advocates for the employment of returning service members-particularly those who have experienced Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
"Fear of the unknown and perceptions that they're 'different' keep many individuals with TBI and PTSD from trying to return to the workforce" says Halfaker. "So it's critical for employers to commit to hiring veterans with disabilities, and to do the groundwork to find them the right jobs within their organizations."
To help supplement her recruiting efforts, Halfaker works with the Wounded Warrior Project and Hire Heroes USA. Both organizations identify candidates for job openings at Halfaker & Associates, as well as at other organizations nationwide. Halfaker and these organizations work as ombudsmen for disabled veteran job candidates, preparing them for the interview process, assisting with travel logistics and familiarizing them with the corporate world.
"We talk to them about the job openings and try to match opportunities to their personal job skills" Halfaker explains. "For instance, in the military, individuals are used to being part of a team, so we try to place the same emphasis here on teamwork and on translating their military skills into civilian employment."
When hiring a veteran with TBI and/or PTSD, Halfaker says it is important to show that employees are valued and to bolster their confidence. Therefore, she sets goals and keeps the lines of communication open. Mentorship programs are another promising practice that Halfaker supports. Because veterans may need time to transition to life at home, linking them with a mentor who is also a veteran can have a significant impact on their performance both on and off the job. Resources like the America's Heroes at Work Web site offer information about mentoring and other workplace supports, such as job sharing and job coaching.
When asked how other employees at Halfaker & Associates have responded to colleagues with TBI/PTSD, Halfaker stresses the importance of equality. "We don't want to overcompensate or alienate any employees" she says. "Rather, we try to normalize the work environment and treat everyone equally. We want veterans with disabilities to fit into the organization-not to feel like they're on display."
Halfaker hires veterans because they embody the military values of loyalty, honor and dedication to duty. "When presented with a mission, a soldier is trained to do whatever it takes to accomplish that mission," she says. "People in the military are also taught how to work in teams and within clear reporting structures."
All in all, Halfaker has had great success with her veteran hires. "These people are resilient" she says. "They've been through challenging situations, and because they've had to push themselves, they are capable of overcoming hardships and adapting to new situations. These are the extraordinary kinds of people whom I want in my organization."