Once he started his first job though, Harbin wasn’t so sure. He’d been keeping a warship safe and afloat. He knew the power systems of a guided missile frigate inside and out. He was literally a defender of the free world. And now he had a job that was – well, just a job.
McNeill knows that feeling too. “You have a job where you feel like you are making a difference, where you’re part of something bigger than yourself, that you are someone special and then, you end up as nothing.”
That’s when Phillips 66 entered the picture. Harbin had friends who worked at the Wood River Refinery and told him the refinery was hiring. McNeill had been laid off after the company he worked for was sold and agreed to meet up with a Phillips 66 rep at a “Hiring Our Heroes” event.
Today, about 20 percent of the workers Philips 66 hired for hourly positions are veterans, and that’s not by chance. The company does targeted outreach to veterans, which includes using vets who are already working for the company.
As Harbin explained, that’s a big deal. “It can be tough for a veteran to explain to a civilian what he or she did in the service and how that translates to a new job. It was a big sense of relief when I was interviewing and found myself talking to an ex-Navy man, who didn’t have to be told how running the power systems on a ship was very much like the work at a refinery.”
For McNeill his “fairy godmother” was an HR Team Member at Phillips 66 who saw something special in him. She marched him and his resume past the standard interviews and took him directly to the people doing the hiring, and she stuck with him until he was in.
Phillips 66 also re-educates its hiring managers, teaching them how to interview veterans like Harbin and McNeill, and how to “translate” their skills and experience to the needs of the company. There’s also a “veterans’ portal” on the Phillips 66 website, where a veteran can plug in his or her skills to see how they would fit-in. When veterans start their new jobs at Phillips 66 the company connects them with an internal group of ex-servicemen and women in the company, who work with the new hires to make that transition successful.
That commitment to hiring veterans helped bring Harbin and McNeill into Phillips 66. But what helped keep them there was a different sort of commitment on the part of the company.
Chad Harbin described it as “a similar sense of purpose. In the Navy, I looked after the power systems my shipmates depended upon – at the refinery (which is like a small city), my co-workers and our plant’s neighbors count on me to keep it running and keep it safe. At Wood River, part of my job is making the decision to shut down the whole plant, if that’s needed to keep things safe.”
Not everyone wants that level of responsibility – but Harbin walked through the refinery gate ready to be that guy, because he already had been that guy. And being “that guy,” Harbin said, means “I can shut down the whole plant if something isn’t safe.”