Stories of WYWM - Transition Services by Andy Ronalds

Mel O'Sullivan - August 31, 2021


  Year 17, decide to quit at 20.  Year 20, intend to quit.  Year 25.5 actually quit.  Where did I go wrong?  Did I not follow the transition steps right?  Was I just not a good enough human being to be employed anywhere other than the Army?  Why, if everybody is telling me I have so much to offer, is nobody giving me a job? 

So spoiler alert, I did get a job.  And not just a job but a career I’m excited about that I hope will carry me all the way to the finish line.  Other spoiler alert, it had absolutely nothing (almost) to do with any advice I got along the way from any of the transition services who “helped” me out.  As sincere as the intentions of most of the contracted service provider individuals were, their help amounted to years of struggles, depression, bitterness and 2 tiny positives.  I heard about LinkedIn for the first time through one of them. And one line stuck with me about interviews: “Be yourself.  If they hire you based on somebody you’re pretending to be, do you really want to pretend to be something you’re not for 20 years?”. 

What did I expect / want / hope for?  I was naïve.  I thought the CF transition group had this magical pile of jobs that were held exclusively for vets.  And that they paid well.  And that they recognized our informal training and “soft skills”. And that is was streamlined and easy. 

What services did I experience?  A couple SCAN seminars, because they say you should attend them frequently as benefits and options change.  A n initial release interview where I was handed a folder 2 inches thick with a bunch of stuff highlighted that was explained to me in a half hour info session.  Surprise, surprise, 90% of that info left my brain before I walked out of the office. And a CTW where: 

  • I was told that the resume I brought that I had paid to be written for me “just needed a couple tweaks and it could put me over the top”.  
  • A career coach contractor coached us through all the practices we would need to master to get a job including “the elevator speech”, how to dress for an interview, how to trick the receptionist into giving us the hiring manager’s personal information, etc…  By the way he got hired by MET shortly after that. 
  • I did a practice interview with a peer.  Trust me, just because we LARP every time we go to the field does not qualify us to act as a HR recruiter.  Zero benefit. 
  • I attended an evening with some prospective partnered companies that were hiring.  Kind of a mini job-fair.  They were looking for either sales people, project managers or garbage truck drivers.  Not my big 3 for what I wanted to be doing after retirement. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve witnessed first hand a lot of successes in transitions.  But the vast majority fall into 2 categories: 

  1. The services were tied to a medical release.  It is my observation that that opens a lot of other doors such as actual priority hire, paid re-training that is coupled with a cost of living allowance that can let you go to school and not work, financial supports and better access to assistance.  I’m not saying these providers are very good either, I’m just saying that there are more to be accessed. 
  1. The vet did 99% of it on their own without the help of a service provider.  Whether they landed a job through “a friend of a friend”, or they went back to school on their own time and dime (or used the ILP when it still existed) to get an actual trade/skill, or they rolled the dice and went after a business of their own, I have never heard anyone say, “Thank God for that resume I built in the resume writing course.  If it wasn’t for that piece of paper I wouldn’t be where I am today”. 

A couple big complaints I’ve heard on more than one occasion are; “It’s officer-centric”, “It’s Ontario-centric”, and “they only offer jobs in the trades, not much good to officers”.  Yes, I know 2 of those contradict each other.  But I’ve heard all of them several times now.  My new career is in data analysis and although just because something occurs a lot of times, doesn’t mean it’s the hard truth; it also doesn’t mean it can be ignored.  I believe the experiences are contextual, they will be applied to the case of the individual and the reason for the fail will consequently be contextual as well. 

In fact, about 3 months after my release, I got wind of some science behind the ineffectiveness of the transition services.  They’re a government contract. The more people they have complaining about lack of supports provided to veterans, the more money gets thrown at contracts and grants by government to fix the problem.  So it actually benefits the service provider to provide a shitty service that veterans and their advocates bitch loudly about to government to spend more money…. See where I’m going with this?  For anybody with a disability claim pending… Sound familiar? 

I know some people will counter this.  The Prince’s entrepreneur program has benefitted quite a few of us.  The education monies available to us aren’t available to the average Joe.  Preferred hiring exists for vets, ranking somewhere between disabled vets, visible minority, bilingual and average dude.  And I left each of the services I attended with a better feeling of self-confidence than I had when I went in.  That last one probably actually had the worst effect on me though, the bigger they are the harder they fall if you know what I mean.  You can only think of yourself as awesome for so long when rejection is the name of the game every single day.  My job hunt eventually turned into that sign you see on the office wall or the door to the troop bay, you know the one.  It has a handprint on either side and a bullseye in the center and says “place palms on handprints, apply forehead to bullseye forcefully and repeatedly until desired outcome is achieved”. 

So what’s the answer?  I don’t have the answer.  If I did I’d sell it to the government for an over-inflated asking price and some clause that would let me live out my life on a sandy beach collecting residuals.  All I know is that for me, it didn’t work.  And I think it has to change so that we can start tackling the real issue.  Vets offing themselves at a ridiculous rate because they struggle in the life after the life. 

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