When Megan Parker coaches transitioning military students, she comes from a place of understanding because she knows their world.
As Director of Coaching at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Parker meets with EMBA, online, and full-time MBA students and alumni who also are military veterans. Her spouse recently retired from the military, and she spent many years in the military environment, both for international and domestic assignments.
“When I came back to the states, we were stationed in a remote area,” says Parker, whose background also includes time in higher education. She looked at options and began working as a contractor for the U.S. Department of Labor. Her mission focused on helping service members transition from the military environment to the civilian environment.
“I had firsthand experience of living and breathing it for more than 20 years,” she says. Now, she taps both her life and career adventures to coach veterans as they pursue their educational and career goals.
“For me, this is a marriage of function and industry that has been enjoyable,” she says. “I love working with military service members who are looking at different options.”
In coaching sessions, Parker pays close attention to helping EMBA student veterans identify their existing skills and the ways that those skills can apply to business. Student vets often wonder how their capabilities and their military services might translate. Sometimes that concern also may result in a lack of confidence.
“It’s not just about finding a new job,” she says. “It’s about having confidence and knowing they have the skills to transition into a new career. It’s figuring out the entire career piece.”
To do that, Parker guides them through a process that starts with looking at skill sets and then focusing on a skill set that helps move them forward in their career. Throughout the process, she encourages students to explore and learn.
“We want them to understand their unique value-add,” she says. “We want them to understand the place where they want to go.”
Parker has developed a guide for veteran students in transition that outlines available resources, including information about a mentor program for service members who are just coming out of active duty, as well as job fairs for veterans. For example, veteran EMBA students can attend the MBA Veterans Career Conference, which connects MBA students who are military veterans with nationwide employers.
Parker keeps an open door for veterans in the MBA and EMBA Programs: “They come to us as many times as they want,” she says. “It depends on the student.”
The EMBA Program only enhances what they have to offer, says Parker, who tries to make sure that military students are able to effectively leverage what they gain in the program to meet their career goals.
EMBA Programs can nurture a veteran-friendly environment by sending coaches through, if available, Green Zone Training, where participants receive training in the issues that military service members face. They also can learn more about their university-wide resources for veterans.
“It’s important to have the resources to support veterans,” she says. “I think it sends a message to students: We are willing to help, and we are willing to understand their needs.”