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Transition

When David Smith joined Wells Fargo three years ago, one of the first things his new boss asked him to do was to set up a webcast series to help former military personnel learn about job opportunities there, and to provide tips on how to navigate the selection process. The idea was to enhance a pipeline that would not only help the company hire more veterans, but also support veterans’ transitions to civilian life. A few months later, Operation Stagecoach was born. 

A U.S. Army veteran himself, Smith had already been working for more than a decade to help other former military transition to civilian jobs. What impressed him about Wells Fargo was that the company didn’t just talk about hiring veterans. With more than 8,000 veterans already in their ranks, they were actually, as he puts it, walking the talk. Creating Operation Stagecoach allowed him to enhance and refine his work. 

 “We wanted to create an environment where we can provide transitioning service members and veterans information about how to increase their odds of being hired specifically at Wells Fargo,” says Smith. “We didn’t want it to be just like a commercial about Wells Fargo to come join us, though we certainly hope that they will.”  

 The goal, he says, is to pull the curtain back on corporate talent acquisition: explain the process, the types of positions available, and how different types of military backgrounds might be relevant. In doing so, he and his colleagues work to enhance veterans’ success in their application journeys. 

Operation Stagecoach Military Workers
“Semper Gumby”: The value of veterans 

When Smith first began helping people make the transition from the military to the corporate world, he had to sell hiring managers on the value of hiring veterans. But over the years, companies have begun to embrace veterans as part of their corporate ranks. At Wells Fargo, for example, the Military Talent Strategic Sourcing Team includes 26 employees across three squads that focus exclusively on recruiting future employees with military backgrounds  

 There are a number of key attributes that make veterans exceptional hires, says Smith. The first is an appreciation of and adherence to the process to achieve complex goals.  

 “Process in our world is very specific,” says Smith. “In the military, you have set processes that you have to follow. Because if you don’t, somebody can get hurt.” Veterans, he says, have a unique understanding of the need for doing things correctly, while also being flexible and raising their hand if something isn’t going to plan. That duality is critical in the corporate workplace, too. 

 “We recognize the value of what veterans bring as far as their discipline and neuroplasticity,” says Smith. “Training is a daily part of being in the military. And flexibility. We have the saying, Semper Gumby: always flexible.” 

 Another skill that’s intrinsic to military experience is the ability to operate as part of a team.  

“One of the things I’ve often said to hiring managers is when you think about the last three people you had to let go for performance,” Smith says, “I can guarantee it had nothing to do with industry knowledge or experience.”

Instead, workplace snags often come down to an ability to function as part of a team and to meet objectives on time. “If you have someone who’s been successful in the military,” he says, “odds are [those things aren’t] going to be a problem with them.”

Helping veterans transition from the field to the office

In his work with Operation Stagecoach, Smith isn’t just a booster for hiring veteran talent within Wells Fargo. He also strives to explain and illuminate Wells Fargo hiring practices to veterans. One major component is helping veterans understand the transferability of their hard-won military skills into highly sought-after corporate skills.

“We would be in recruiting events, sometimes on bases, and people would walk on by, because they think, ‘Oh, I’m not going to be a banker,’” Smith says. They think, “‘I was in the infantry, I was artillery. Why would a bank be interested in me? And why would I be interested in a bank?’”

That’s where Smith and his team come in. During their presentations to veterans, they not only walk through the company’s lines of businesses, from mortgages to private banking, but also how those areas might match the veteran’s skill set. One approach they take is breaking skillsets down into three major areas: customer-facing, administrative or operations. For each of those preferences, they share the divisions and types of professional roles that utilize those types of skills and preferences.

In one case, he says, the veteran was in the Army military police; on his last tour in Afghanistan, he patrolled with a bomb dog.

“He told me, ‘I was kicking in doors and looking for bombs. I don’t know how this all fits [in a bank,’” Smith says. “Well, banks have these control centers that coordinate support and security in the case of emergencies in banking centers.”

In this case, the veteran’s experience in the military dealing with high-stress situations and being able to respond quickly were directly applicable to a role at Wells Fargo. The veteran applied for a control center job and has been with the company ever since.

Another approach that Smith takes is similar to the concept that Japanese declutter guru, Marie Kondo, made famous. When considering their military careers, he asks, what brought them the most joy and a sense of purpose? From there, he helps match the sentiment with skillset, and skillset with job function.

Helping veterans transition from the field to the office

In his work with Operation Stagecoach, Smith isn’t just a booster for hiring veteran talent within Wells Fargo. He also strives to explain and illuminate Wells Fargo hiring practices to veterans. One major component is helping veterans understand the transferability of their hard-won military skills into highly sought-after corporate skills.

“We would be in recruiting events, sometimes on bases, and people would walk on by, because they think, ‘Oh, I’m not going to be a banker,’” Smith says. They think, “‘I was in the infantry, I was artillery. Why would a bank be interested in me? And why would I be interested in a bank?’”

That’s where Smith and his team come in. During their presentations to veterans, they not only walk through the company’s lines of businesses, from mortgages to private banking, but also how those areas might match the veteran’s skill set. One approach they take is breaking skillsets down into three major areas: customer-facing, administrative or operations. For each of those preferences, they share the divisions and types of professional roles that utilize those types of skills and preferences.

In one case, he says, the veteran was in the Army military police; on his last tour in Afghanistan, he patrolled with a bomb dog.

“He told me, ‘I was kicking in doors and looking for bombs. I don’t know how this all fits [in a bank,’” Smith says. “Well, banks have these control centers that coordinate support and security in the case of emergencies in banking centers.”

In this case, the veteran’s experience in the military dealing with high-stress situations and being able to respond quickly were directly applicable to a role at Wells Fargo. The veteran applied for a control center job and has been with the company ever since.

Another approach that Smith takes is similar to the concept that Japanese declutter guru, Marie Kondo, made famous. When considering their military careers, he asks, what brought them the most joy and a sense of purpose? From there, he helps match the sentiment with skillset, and skillset with job function.

application process Wells Fargo Veterans
The application process 

Finally, once veterans better understand how their skills transfer to Wells Fargo needs and opportunities, the Operation Stagecoach team ensures that they’re well prepared for the job application process. Some of the steps Smith addresses include what happens when the recruiter sees the resume; what they do with it next; how applicants can get their attention; and how to interview.  

 “In the military, you don’t have interviews,” says Smith. “For promotions, you have a board where you sit at attention, and they ask you for data, and you provide statistics and that kind of thing.” 

As a result, in civilian interviews, some veterans Smith has worked with are too stiff, and don’t showcase their personalities.  

 “So, talking about the kind of things we’re looking for in an interview, and how [Operation Stagecoach participants] can succinctly tell the story that’s going to give the interviewer the information they need is an important piece of it. That’s one of the reasons why we want to provide that information; they are competing against people who have interviewed their entire professional career. Trying to level the playing field a little bit in that regard is important.” 

Yet, Smith’s work goes beyond seminars and formal presentations. Recently, he worked with a Wells Fargo veteran candidate who was nervous about an upcoming interview. Smith happens to be a certified yoga instructor, and led the candidate through some breathing exercises to calm down. The next day, Smith received an email from the veteran, reporting that he’d had an excellent interview. 

For Smith, the experience exemplifies what he loves about his work. “I feel that I have something to offer and the folks coming from the military have a need,” he says. “And Wells Fargo is willing to [have me] help make that happen. That’s the joy that comes from it.” 

 

If you or a veteran in your network would like to attend an upcoming Operation Stagecoach webinar, please contact militaryrecruiting@wellsfargo.com to request a registration link.  

Join The Community
Stay up to date with our weekly newsletter! We share information about resources and hiring initiatives for veterans and military spouses across the country.