Timothy Cochrane is the President, ACP Citizens Program at American Corporate Partners, a non-profit that offers free mentorships for long-term career development to the veteran community. He is also the Senior Managing Director at Prime Executions, an agency only broker dealer located on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.Tim served in the US Marine Corps for four years.
Why to Listen:
American Corporate Partners is a resource I have mentioned on – literally – hundreds of episodes. In this interview, we dive into everything a veteran needs to know about ACP and why EVERY veteran should use their free service to find a mentor to help them further their career.
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Transcript & Time Stamps:
Hey there, I have a quick note before today’s episode. This episode focuses on American Corporate Partners, a great organization focused on veteran mentorship. I really enjoyed my conversation with Tim and one thing I realized is that we talked about some really important stuff after I had ended the interview recording. So I wanted to start off with a plug for ACP’s Women’s Veteran Mentoring Program.
Launched in 2016, the ACP Women’s Veteran Mentoring Program connects female veterans with female entrepreneurs and businesswomen for a year long mentorship relationship. ACP hand selects a mentor for each veteran depending on her skills and interests. Topics covered during the mentorship include building a civilian friendly resume, managing work/life balance, and building networking skills. As part of the Women’s Veteran Mentoring Program, female veterans will have exclusive access to events and networking opportunities throughout the year. Many of ACP’s corporate partners actively recruit female professionals to participate in the program. ACP is also pleased to work with various organizations focused on supporting women including 100 Women in Finance, Ellevate Network, and Lean In. If this interests you or would interest someone you know, please access ACP’s website for more details about taking part in the program. Thanks and enjoy today’s show.
Today is Episode #151 focused on the organization American Corporate Partners. For long times listeners, you’ve heard me mention ACP many times. This is a program I’ve observed from a distance for a long time and have been extremely impressed. WIth my guest today, Tim Cochrane, we will talk about the many services provided by ACP. ACP partners with organizations like PepsiCo, Disney, IBM, UniLever, and 21st Century Fox. ACP provides mentors from these companies that will help you build your network, work on your resume, and prepare for interviews. This is not just for people on active duty or recently transitioned veterans. This is for all active duty military or veterans regardless of where you are in your career.
For those of you who are further into your civilian career, you could contribute to ACP as a potential mentor or with financial support. It costs about $1000 for ACP to support each mentorship and 98% of all donations go straight to building and growing these mentorships. A financial donation to ACP can make a life changing difference for a veteran. And with that let’s dive in to my conversation with Tim.
Joining me today from New York City is Timothy, Cochrane. Long time listeners of Beyond the Uniform know that I am a massive fan of the work that ACP does. If you listened to Episode #62 with Hank Hughes, you heard him talk about being mentored by George Lucas through an ACP partnership. Tim is the President of ACP’s Citizens Program. ACP is a non-profit that offers free mentorship to veterans. Tim joined ACP after a 32 year career on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Tim also served in the Marine Corps for four years.
Tim what would you want listeners to know about ACP?
A couple things – I’ll give a little bit about the history of ACP. ACP was founded by Sid Goodfriend who was a top banker for both Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse. He and his wife Amy founded ACP. Amy was the first female equity partner at Goldman Sachs. They both had extremely successful finance careers. Sid happened to be standing at the base of the World Trade Center on September 11th and he was extremely affected by what he saw. From that moment on, he started thinking about what he could do for his country. Around 2008, he and Amy starting thinking about what would happen to all the men and women overseas once they returned to the United States. And it wasn’t just about getting them a job, but getting them a meaningful job. So he went to Indra Nooyi at PepsiCo and told her that he was quitting his job to start a mentoring program. He said that he would put up the finances necessary if she would provide the mentors. He wanted to connect men and women returning to the United States with mentors. He then got a few more companies on board and today we have over 70Fortune 500 companies that we work with. It’s an amazing program. In less than ten years, over 11,000 veterans have completed the program.
And a little bit more about the specifics of the program. It’s a one year mentorship relationship between the veteran and a corporate mentor that works in a field they are interested in going into. There is never a cost to a veteran. The employees that participate find it incredibly rewarding as well to help veterans in this way. We ask the mentors and veterans that come onboard to commit to a yearlong mentorship where it’s one hour a month focused on career development.
Through the interviews that I’ve done with veterans, so many of them have talked about how important networking has been throughout their transition. It’s amazing the ACP packages mentorship in this way and allows veterans to build their network.
I completely agree. I think about my own transition and I realize what an opportunity ACP is able to offer by connecting veterans with a mentor in whatever industry they want to go into. Part of our program is that we want our mentors to have as good of an experience as our veterans. We ask them to come onboard for a one year mentorship. At the end of the mentorship, we want them to feel great about that relationship that has been built and for the help they were able to provide to a veteran.
Is there an ideal time for someone to reach out to ACP for mentorship?
It’s different for everyone. I would say seven or eight months before getting out is ideal. But our veterans come to us from all stages of the transition. Some reach out two or three years before they get out of the military while others reach out two or three years after they leave the military. It really is pretty broad. You don’t know what you don’t know so it gives veterans the opportunity to be guided by their mentor and provide feedback regarding skills and certifications needed for a particular industry.
How much clarity should someone have regarding what industry they want to get into before they reach out to ACP?
Honestly many veterans that come to us don’t know what they want to do. But we are still able to provide them with a variety of services to help them find what path might be right for them. 67% of veterans that have taken part in our program since 2010 came to us to learn about what career opportunities are available to them. 70% said their reason for reaching out to ACP was to improve their resume and 60% said they wanted to build their professional network. So that’s pretty broad when you think about where veterans are during their transition. I was just at an event at Johnson & Johnson that was attended by both mentors and proteges. You could see how excited the proteges were to have the opportunity to be exposed to their mentor’s extended network. There’s so many jobs and careers that veterans can go into. It’s overwhelming. But if I give you a mentor that can help you through some of those questions, that can be life changing. That’s someone that you can pick up the phone and reach out to.
What is ACP’s Citizens Program?
Right out of the Marine Corps, I went to the New York Stock Exchange and spent over 32 years there. So I have a pretty deep corporate experience. But when I was getting out of the Marines, I wasn’t even thinking about companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb or General Motors. I was a kid from Brooklyn so I thought I would become a cop or a fireman. I never thought I would end up on Wall Street and I only did that because they guy who ran technology at the NYSE was a former Marine. So when I was getting out, my claim to fame was the mine detect repairman at Guantanamo Bay. So when I got back to the United States, I had no idea how I would translate that into a job.
Sure enough when I went to interview for a job at the NYSE, I remember the tech guy that was a former Marine brought out a schematic during the interview. He saw the fear in my eyes and then crumpled it up and said, “You won’t need this anyway. If you can make it through Parris Island, I can train you.” So sure enough, that was how I wound up in my first job. Then I ended up down on the floor at the Stock Exchange where it turned out there was a bit of a Marine Corps mafia, a bunch of former Marines. They all looked out for each other. I was blessed to have that mentorship where other service men and women that worked with me looked out for me through the years. So when I started talking to Sid, that’s the experience I told him about. He told me the story of veterans not being able to see themselves in corporate America was one he had heard from many other veterans, too.
So we started the Citizens Program for veterans that want to go into something other than corporate America. Plumbers, electricians, firemen, and teachers are mentors in the program. It’s helpful because veterans don’t just want to go into corporate America, they want to go into all kinds of different fields. That’s how the program started and that’s where I come in. I talk to smaller companies and government contractors. Real estate and construction. So no matter where you’re coming from the military, I can find you a mentor in a career path of your choice.
The transition process can be very scary for veterans. Providing them with a mentor can help take some of the mystery out of that process.
No doubt. One of the most joyous things in my life has been being part of this program. You hear so many veterans who say that they thought the transition would be easy. Then some of them find out it’s not as easy as they thought. We’re able to provide these members services to help them through the process.
Are there any common misconceptions that veterans have about their civilian career?
Many veterans tend to under play their accomplishments. Or they think that they have to do something very similar to what they did in the military. But the whole point of ACP is to break that barrier down and figure out how to apply the veterans skills to a different career. You might have been a truck driver in the military but now you want to go into marketing. So I can provide you with a mentor that can help you apply your skills to marketing.
I also think veterans think it will be easier to find a job than it really is. There’s plenty of jobs out there but it’s about meaningful employment. It’s not good enough to just get our veterans a job. The average age of someone that comes to us is 33. So at that age they’ve done about ten years in the military and might be married with kids. So they have responsibilities. But the average pay for a veteran’s first job out of the military is $44,000. But in a place like New York, you would need to get a second job if you wanted to support a family with that kind of salary. That’s just not going to do it.
We did a survey of veterans who got jobs as a result of our program and the average salary was $75,000. That’s the difference between that $44,000 national average and our program where we provide a mentor to a veteran.
I also want to point out that the power of mentorship is something that will help you not just during your transition but throughout your career as well.
And this is where the magic of Sid’s brilliance happens. When he was at Merrill Lynch, he saw a bunch of different mentorship programs. But many of them failed. You can connect two people together but it’s up to them to grow that relationship and stay in touch. With ACP, our staff oversees the mentorship to make sure it is growing in ways that are beneficial to both participants. That oversight is a lot of why we’re able to achieve success.
How can veterans be better at speaking to their accomplishments without feeling slimy about it?
At the end of the day, life is about experience. Just look at my career, I ended up on the New York Stock Exchange and I don’t even have a college degree. But it was a lot about timing and having the right people in my life. I’ve run for Congress and I’ve started a real estate company. And now today, I believe I’m making a difference with this organization. So, it’s about those people that you meet along the way. Just listen to anyone that’s in corporate America now in the veteran job hiring space. They’ll tell you – it’s all about those connections that you make along the way. You faced it, I faced it, every veteran faces it. It’s a whole other culture on the civilian side. There’s not a lot that you can do to prepare for that other than connecting with someone who has already been there. So for someone that has never had any job experience other than the military, the cultural adjustment to the civilian side can be huge.
There are great people in the military but those mentorship relationships are powerful as people make their transition. I also happen to be a mentor in ACP so I’ve seen from personal experience how veterans can be benefited from mentorship relationships. Things move a lot faster in the military than they do on the civilian side. So the waiting game can be pretty tough when it comes to going on an interview and waiting weeks and weeks to hear back. But just having someone to call as you go through that process can make all the difference in the world.
Do you have any recommendations about what veterans can do to pay the bills while they’re looking for the perfect civilian position for themselves?
This is a big problem facing veterans as they make their transition out of the military. They don’t always have the opportunity to save a lot while they’re in so they’re forced into a position where they have to take the first position that comes down the pipe after they leave the military. You look at some of these national averages. Many veterans are some of the most underemployed people in our workforce because they take the first position they can get.
60% of veterans will leave their first job out of the military in under a year. We just did a survey of 2015-2016 veterans that went through our program and got a job through our program. 82% of them are still with that company. It just keeps coming back to the power of mentorship. It might sound like an infomercial but I could show you the numbers.
How can a veteran sign up to be matched with a mentor?
It’s very simple, you just go to our website. You’ll see a link that will connect you with the application. The application itself is very easy, it’s a one pager asking about your experience and what you’re looking for. It takes no more than 5 minutes. Within 24 hours a member of our staff will reach out to you for a 15 minute phone call to go more into depth about what you want to get out of the program and what industries you might be interested in going into. And if you don’t know, that’s fine. Once the staff member has all of your information, they will then go into our database and look for a mentor that matches what you’re looking for. They will propose both the mentor and the protégé to each other to make sure both believe it will be a good fit. Then the mentor and protégé are connected for a yearlong mentorship. It’s important that both sides buy into the process and commit to the mentorship.
Can a veteran that has been out of the military for several years still participate?
It is a Post 9/11 program and we just ask that they have served at least 180 days of active duty service after September 11thand that you were honorably discharged. But some people that come into our program have been out of the military for five or six years and are looking to grow their network or make a career change. It’s extremely rewarding for us to see the success that the program has had. 98% of every dollar donated to us goes straight to supporting a mentorship. We don’t do any marketing or advertising, people hear about us through word of mouth.
What are some things people can do to support ACP and its programming?
I always need mentors. At any given time, I have anywhere from 200 to 300 veterans waiting for the perfect mentor. So I would love to have any of your listeners that feel that they would be a great mentor. It also costs us about $1000 a year to support each mentorship. So I’m always looking for funding to support these mentorships. All donations go right into the program. We would love to have your support.
Is there any other advice you would give to military members and veterans?
One of the things that we have is our ACP AdvisorNet. If you go to our website and look in the right hand corner, you’ll see a link to AdvisorNet. Within AdvisorNet, there are tens of thousands of people there to answer your questions. You can punch in your zip code and it will show you a listing of people in your area and desired industry who are willing to answer any questions you might have about that industry. Meanwhile, there are also many other military members and veterans that are part of AdvisorNet as well and they also willing to share information and answer questions. AdvisorNet was built for us by GE and IBM. It’s an incredible tool for anyone that’s looking to network or for job opportunities.
Thank you so much Tim for not only taking the time to talk to me today but also for all the amazing work you’re doing for the veteran community.