Toastmasters training pays off for veterans
Three military veterans who have participated in a novel program at the AMVETS Career Center on East Dublin-Granville Road have gotten jobs.
All three were enrolled in the nonprofit organization's Toastmasters Club, designed to help put former soldiers more at ease in job interviews.
"I just think that my being recently separated from the army, they work hand in hand as far as the veterans and their interpersonal communication, as far as interviewing and all that good stuff," Eric Miller said last week.
"They're able to help iron out some of the soldier's weaknesses, if you will," he added. "I was able to take some of those weaknesses and turn them around into strengths."
The club was launched in February at the AMVETS Career Center, which, according to its website, is chartered in the state of Ohio "to provide employment, career and training assistance to veterans, active duty military personnel, the National Guard and Reserves who have served honorably."
"One of the things that we've noticed from research by ourselves and others, even the Department of Defense and the Department of Labor, is that employers give, in study after study, as the reason they don't want to hire veterans is they don't think they have the skills they need in their organizations," said Len Proper, program and operations director for the AMVETS Career Center.
Civilians think military service is all about firing rifles and driving tanks, Proper added, failing to realize that 70 percent of veterans have worked in support occupations similar to ones outside the service, such as being doctors, lawyers, accountants and computer technicians.
"There really is a communication gap," Proper said. "Only about 1 percent served in the military, (they) don't understand the training and jobs, and at the same time, veterans don't do a good job of explaining.
"We saw this coming up over and over again."
Proper hit on the concept of starting a Toastmasters Club at the center as a means of bridging that communication gap.
What has become Toastmasters International was founded in 1924 at a YMCA in Santa Ana, Calif., by director of education Ralph C. Smedley, according to the organization's website. He decided to create a social club as a means of making young men more comfortable with public speaking.
That was Proper's purpose in establishing a Toastmasters Club at the AMVETS Career Center.
The club meets every other week at the East Dublin-Granville Road offices, with one week dedicated to participants speaking on an assigned topics and the other to conducting mock job interviews, according to Proper.
"It's a fun way to learn," he said. "We don't tear anyone down."
"At first, it was just like anything else, like getting to know the fellow officers and what they're going to expect," said Miller, who landed a financial fraud analyst position at JP Morgan Chase, according to AMVETS Career Center spokeswoman Brooke Chavdar.
"There's just that fear factor ... but at the end of the day after the second impromptu, they were there to help you," Miller added.
In addition, veteran Steve Reck got a job at the career center after being in the Toastmasters Club.
"He was unsure of himself as a speaker when he first joined and would shy away from participating whenever he could," according to Chavdar, "but has since realized how capable he is and rushes to the lectern to speak whenever he gets the chance."
Former Marine Dwight Williams became a skip tracer for a local staffing agency, Recovery Services, in May.
"I really enjoy participating in Central Ohio Veterans Toastmasters," he said in a press release. "It's fun, and I'm glad to be able to add another skill to my resume."
"We are very, very happy," Proper said. "We're doing it for veterans but this is the kind of experience that just about anyone who's looking for a job could benefit from.
"We had some resistance at the beginning," he admitted. "Some people looked at me like, 'Are you playing with a full deck?'"