Many military veterans have difficulty transitioning to jobs in the civilian world. For combat veterans with combat military occupational specialties (MOS), the hurdles are especially high. How do you find a job that matches your skills and experience as, say, an Explosive Detection Dog handler or a sniper trainer?
Those are the kinds of problems combat veteran Adam Gonzales faced when he returned from Afghanistan in 2012. As an NCO there, he had led a six-man reconnaissance and surveillance team that parachuted in behind enemy lines to gather intelligence that generals could use to create battle plans.
“I think society and the military have done a poor job in educating combat veterans on what they qualify for outside of the military,” says Adam. “I knew I had gained a wealth of unique experiences, knowledge and wisdom that were invaluable – but I had no idea who would employ me back home in the United States.”
Eventually, he found a perfect fit as Director of Operations for a private security firm. But he couldn’t help thinking about all the other veterans who weren’t so fortunate in their transition to civilian employment. So began Silent Professionals, a job board that matches military veterans and former law enforcement officers with jobs suited to their unique skill sets.
Silent Professionals started as a way to help Adam identify and vet highly skilled security professionals for his employer. “[My employer is] involved in many hostage-rescue and kidnap-prevention operations for various U.S. private and corporate clients,” he explains. “As you can imagine, these operations are extremely urgent and need extraordinarily skilled and particular types of disciplined professionals at the last minute.”
Scrambling to fill these jobs was getting old hat. To create a pipeline of qualified candidates, Adam’s wife, Susan Gonzales, a former intelligence officer who was part of a Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan, developed the site. Silent Professionals’ matchmaking efforts worked—too well.
“We had all of these highly-skilled men and women looking for work and [my employer] didn’t have nearly enough jobs for everyone,” Adam says. Eager to help as many veterans as possible, he started reaching out to friends who worked for other security companies that needed the same types of vetted professionals he and his wife had found. Employers began hearing about Silent Professionals through word-of-mouth, and soon they begam contacting Adam.
Silent Professionals features private military, private security, executive protection and security guard jobs, among others. (Sample jobs include “Executive Protection—Liberia, Africa,” and “Personal Security Specialist/Arabic Linguist—Iraq,” and “Basic Underwater Demolition/Security Preparatory Instructor.”)
“In an increasingly dangerous world, we are seeing a huge spike in demand for the security professionals,” says Adam. “Naturally, this sector is a smooth transition for combat veterans since security is built into their most rudimentary levels of training.”
Veterans fill out a Candidate Intake Questionnaire and create an Online Profile to apply for jobs directly on the site. Silent Professionals personally vets each job and each candidate, matching the right person to the right job at the right time.
Although Silent Professionals is still a labor of love rather than a profitable business, it’s quickly evolving into a full-time affair. Adam and Susan rely on a volunteer network of a dozen veteran friends to help vet candidates and reply to the thousands of emails they receive each day. Employers pay a flat fee per job posting, which helps to cover the costs of operating the site. Job seekers never pay to apply for jobs.
Silent Professionals now attracts nearly 40,000 users per month. About 86% are U.S. military veterans; another 10% come from a law enforcement background. So far, the site has helped more than 1,300 combat veterans find jobs, and that total is growing daily.
“Over 84% of all of the candidates that we’ve recommended to employers have been hired,” Adam says. “It has been extremely rewarding to be able to put our brothers and sisters into meaningful jobs.”
The next step, Adam says, will be adding a “help desk” service to efficiently field the thousands of questions the site gets each day. “We don’t just want an automated answering service,” he explains. “We envision veterans helping veterans in a live format, using technology to help us scale that effort efficiently and effectively.”
Eventually, Adam and Susan hope to expand Silent Professionals far beyond its current niche. “We currently only appeal to a specific subset of veterans,” Adam notes. “In the future, we envision broadening our services to help veterans find jobs in all sectors.”
U.S. military soldier in the desert stock photo from Getmilitaryphotos/Shutterstock