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Military and civilian life: What it takes to pursue dual careers

A support network, flexibility and a lot of planning are ingredients for success

What is it like to be in the military and have a full-time civilian career? According to Securian Financial’s Harold Price, having a supportive employer is crucial to make it possible.

Harold is a project management consultant at Securian Financial. He’s also a civil affairs officer in the U.S. Army Reserves and has served in the military since 2002. Harold deployed to Europe in September 2021, and we talked with him before he left about managing two careers, family and deployment, and how employers can support service members and their families.

What is your role in the military?

I’m a civil affairs officer and I’m responsible for communications with the civilian sector that the military operates with, leveraging their resources and avoiding collateral damage. I help civil authorities have a role in making sure military operations minimize damage.

What do you enjoy about your military service?

It’s a change from my day-to-day responsibilities, it offers more direct leadership, and it’s something I’ve been connected with since I was a child. I grew up in a military family, so I have a lot of childhood connections.

What are the challenges?

Time is always a challenge. It goes outside the one weekend a month/two weeks a year, especially as you take on more responsibility. You’re basically creating another career, so you have to be proactive in everything you’re doing. You have to think much more long term. It also takes away from family time. The sacrifice doesn’t just come from deployment. It comes Monday through Sunday.

What does Securian Financial do to make your military service and deployment possible?

Preparation for deployment includes all the training and activities that lead up to it.  So, the military paid time off Securian offers helps alleviate some of the stress around having to go in and out of service and back to work. It really helps with that transition.

Also, flexibility. While we try to communicate about what’s happening with the military, the flexibility and support at work during ambiguity is probably the biggest thing. When things are not clearly defined, the support to go on deployment as things develop has been helpful. When someone deploys, families and employers alike take the brunt of it — they both feel that sacrifice. The understanding from employers is crucial.

How have you and your team been preparing for your deployment?

We’ve prepared for this since the beginning of the year. I knew at the end of 2020 that this was going to happen, so we’ve been bringing in some extra support and help as needed. I try to reemphasize to those I’m supporting well in advance what the plan is.

What can employees — at Securian or elsewhere — do to support colleagues who are active service members or veterans?

The true sense of support is an action word. Care packages are always nice. And just letting people know what’s in your heart and mind is always good. It provides a sense of comfort because there is always a consciousness that you’re letting your team down, that you’re making something else more of a priority.

Our Servicemember Associate Resource Group (SARG) helps find opportunities to support before and after deployments, and we’re going to try to do that during my deployment, too. I’m thinking every three to four months there will be a touch point with key people, depending on the tempo of my work load out there. In a long deployment like this, it’ll be nice to share the experience with coworkers and let them know how things are going.

What is deployment like for families? How can we support them?

Being deliberate with offering support is important so that every two weeks or so families can count on additional help — and keeping that going throughout deployment. People want to help at the beginning, but then they fade away, and things get harder as you get deeper into the deployment.

For kids, you lay out what things they may go through. I’ve picked up books to read with them about what to expect. It’s good to get some resources and have an outline of some things they’re going to go through for different aged kids. Sometimes a spouse’s employer should know as well because they’re going to be impacted and may need to leverage different accommodations for their own work.

And, support is needed not only during deployment. Service members have long training stints at times. When any family member steps out, the family deals with more. SARG has a “Battle Buddy” program we’re growing that will offer more support for families.

What unique skills do veterans bring to corporate roles?

Service members are taught to put team first. We sometimes grow as professionals to think of ourselves in our own individual abilities, but I think because the military is so team centric it becomes a part of your approach to things that some people don’t have in their professional development. Also, the ability to adapt to dynamic changes. Service members in all branches deal with a lot of change, and that’s something they and veterans bring with them.

There’s also the focus on professional development. The military is always grooming people for promotions and the next level of responsibility. The mindset that you have to grow professionally and look for advancement is something military members expect and are open to doing. The aptitude for growth, a team outlook and adapting to change can be helpful across all sorts of areas.

Why is it important to have the SARG group at Securian Financial?

It helps supplement our Securian brand. There’s a lot of patriotic support at our company, so SARG is an outlet for that support. There is a unique opportunity for recruiting veterans and the experiences that help shape service members that Securian can benefit from. As we talk about having a diverse pool of employees and abilities and talent, military service members have that. So, having SARG is important as we continue to grow our talent.

As the SARG co-lead, what would you like the group to accomplish?

We want to make Securian Financial an employer of choice for veterans. And also, build internal fellowship and camaraderie for those who are connected to military service — whether it’s through their direct service, family members or friends. We really want it to be a place where people can share those connections and have a stronger bond not only to each other but to the company that allows the group to exist.

We need to reach out in the community and utilize the networks we have, get the message out, improve our benefits and have a support mechanism in place that helps us to be well known as an employer of choice. SARG’s participation in Beyond the Yellow Ribbon has accelerated our ability to reach out to the military community. That’s been really good, and we’re still developing and utilizing that network.

Support for underrepresented employees

Employee Resource Groups at Securian Financial — like our Servicemember Associate Resource Group — help underrepresented employees feel more connected and supported at our company. Open to all employees, the groups create a more aware, respectful and inclusive workplace.

Learn about our six Employee Resource Groups

Harold Price is a Securian Financial employee and thus has a financial connection to Securian Financial. His statements were given freely.

DOFU 11-2021