Nick Swaggert’s Reverse Boot Camp
You’ve heard of basic training. All military recruits go through it. It seems like hell, there’s a lot of yelling, but it works. But when they return from service and are looking to enter or re-enter the workforce, they’re pretty much on their own. Nick Swaggert is changing this.
Swaggert is director of the veterans program at Genesis10, a New York-based IT placement and consulting firm. An infantry officer with the Marine Corps from 1999 to 2010 who still serves in the Reserves, he specializes in matching veterans with career opportunities.
“It starts with a conversation,” says the youthful 32-year-old over coffee in downtown Minneapolis. “Often I’ll hear someone say, ‘I’m not sure what I want to do.’ That’s where we start. I give them options that don’t all involve working as a security guard.”
Swaggert estimates that he’s helped place more than 100 veterans since starting the job about a year ago. He helps vets write their resumes to be relevant to corporate hiring managers. He also runs a reverse boot camp training seminar for vets, helping soldiers to exhibit more workplace-friendly behaviors.
“For example, in the military, we’re taught not to use the word ‘I’ and to keep our words short,” he says. “It’s a reason that vets might struggle in interviews—and we teach them differently.”
During the training program, veterans learn about corporate culture and language, what to wear in the workplace, how to perform in an interview and showcase their skills and expertise in appropriate ways. “I’m in the business of selling vets to companies,” he says. “I tell them there are people who can wear both a business suit and a uniform.”
Common placements for veterans include jobs as project managers, business analysts, quality-assurance professionals, software developers, networking engineers and help-desk technicians.
One of the challenges is that not a lot of Minnesotans have served in the military, or know someone who has served in the military. “The veteran population in Minnesota is very small, around 4 percent,” Swaggert says. “It’s unlikely hiring managers are going to have contact with a veteran or understand the veteran experience. That’s the barrier to veteran hiring. It’s helping hiring managers understand veterans.”