Season 3 Episode 121: Embracing the Inevitable Changes in Military Transition with Bruce Thompson

On this episode of the Lessons Learned for Vets podcast, we have the privilege of speaking with Bruce Thompson. In the military transition space, Bruce is one of the most prolific veteran advocates and volunteers. Retiring from the Marine Corps 7 years ago, Bruce is now the Executive Director of The ASCEND Collective, the nonprofit arm of Talents ASCEND. This organization not only works with underserved communities to help them become employment ready, but it also partners with employers to educate them on the benefits of hiring these individuals. As an advocate for mental health awareness, he is open with his own struggles. Tune in to hear how Bruce has found success in an unconventional post military career.

Bruce Thompson’s retirement came earlier than he had expected due to medical challenges. Having his identity wrapped up in the uniform and his physical fitness, the transition did not come easy. He was no longer an active duty marine or the stellar athlete that he once was. Bruce left his first job after just 4 weeks because he wasn’t mentally prepared for life outside of the military. For the next 6 weeks, Bruce did not leave the house and fell into a depression. With the help and support of his wife, he applied for 3 positions in the transition space and sought help for his PTSD, depression and anxiety. Shortly thereafter, he accepted a teaching position as an employment workshop facilitator for the Department of Labor.

Volunteerism has been a very important part of Bruce’s career path and personal growth. He believes that strategic volunteering can be a segue to employment opportunities. Volunteering strengthens your ties to the community and is a way to give back. It also has a positive impact on your emotional well-being.

Most of Bruce’s employment opportunities post military came about through networking. He credits LinkedIn for his networking success and encourages people to learn how to strategically build a profile to meet their goals. The first question a person needs to ask themself is, “What story do I want to tell through LinkedIn?” Next, a person needs to think through what kind of posted content is best to support their story. Networking events, whether in-person or virtual, should support one’s goals. People need to understand who they are, where they are and where they would like to be to make the best decisions.

Bruce Thompson is open about his battle with PTSD, anxiety and depression. After working with three or four counselors through the VA, he found one that he feels comfortable sharing his struggles. Bruce wants to blow the door off the stigma surrounding mental health. There are resources on top of resources, but they are only effective if the person is willing to ask for help. People want to be heard and people want to know that someone cares.

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