Since September 11, 2001, more than 2.2 million individuals have put on the uniform. After completing their duty, they return from service looking forward to a new life and career.
As an executive personal brand specialist, I have volunteered to help hundreds of military personnel make the transition and have seen the gap between what veterans can offer employers and what hiring managers perceive when recruiting from this workforce. Here the 10 examples of where that gap is most troubling.
1. Talking about ourselves is uncomfortable. In military service, we focus on the collective and protecting our brothers' back. To talk about our individual accomplishments feels like betraying those we served alongside. We are more comfortable saying “we” than “I”.
2. We come from a very structured environment. While serving, our work and personal time were scheduled for us. We were trained on drills and scenarios, giving us the power of preparedness. We are able to follow instruction, have respect for rules and meet deliverables with efficiency. We can also think creatively, adapt to new situations and improvise quite well.
3. Our spouses and families are an important part of our transition. Multiple relocations, excessive travel and long work hours are standard in the military. Some of us have only been home a short time. Encouraging a work/life balance and including our spouse in the on-boarding process will buy you loyalty with us.
4. We resist "the veteran" label at work. Our military career was what we did before working here. We may not want to wear that label in our next job. We seek to integrate and contribute -- we are not looking for a handout. Let us show you our strengths.
5. We don’t all have PTSD. In combat, we experienced difficult things because it was our job. If we have PTSD, then trust we are working through it. It is likely that many of your civilian employees have issues because of trauma. Please don't label me as fragile or unstable.
6. We are used to stress and deadlines. In the military, we operated under tight deadlines and pressure. We know how to think quickly on our feet, be resilient in managing crisis, gather resources and effectively make decisions.
7. We are a mature workforce. While some of our counterparts might be immature, we are battle-tested, focused, adaptable and committed to success. This maturity is a huge asset for employers seeking a dedicated workforce who will commit to seeing a problem through to conclusion.
8. Company values are important to us. When you promote company values, mission and vision, we will believe you until proven otherwise. We have been well trained in the support and promotion of values. When your company says it believes in teamwork and supporting the community, please mean it.
9. Some of us still serve. Many of us serve our country in the Guard and Reserves. Know that our time spent in service might impact our work, but we will do everything in our power to make up for lost time in the office.
10. Most of us are unprepared for the transition. Millions of us have left the military in the past decade and have struggled to relate to civilian hiring managers. Understanding how to market ourselves with personal branding, networking skills and basic corporate nuances are important to us. We seek out these resources so you can evaluate us more efficiently.
The veteran workforce is one of the most skilled, trainable and dedicated group of individuals our nation has seen in generations. Helping employers understand the needs, goals and potential contribution of the veteran employee is not only the right thing to do, it is necessary for hiring managers to leverage this workforce.
When hiring managers are given the language and tools to understand veterans, and when veterans are empowered with the ability to clearly articulate their value, we can recruit, onboard and grow these talented and committed employees and leaders.