It's Time to Bust These 3 Myths About Hiring Veterans
We've all seen the commercials: Men and women in uniform jumping out of helicopters, diving into oceans on a dark night or driving tanks. Yes, these are some of the many incredible things that men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces do every day. However, these recruiting commercials can have the unintended side effect of reinforcing misconceptions about veterans.
There is an idea that veterans are too far removed from the corporate world and don't have skills that will translate into an office environment. This just isn't true, and misunderstandings like these may inhibit private sector businesses from recruiting veterans.
What many companies are still learning is that veterans are uniquely suited to excel in a corporate environment that values teamwork, responsibility and intelligence. After serving as an intelligence officer in the National Guard and Army Reserve and watching my peers transition into post-military careers, it's time to lay some of these myths about veterans in the workforce to rest once and for all.
Myth 1: Veterans lack valuable office skills.
This is one of the biggest myths about veterans. People often imagine veterans spending years outdoors in an unstructured environment, but this is inaccurate. Many skills practiced and learned in the military bear strong similarities to those found in a corporate environment. In fact, many service men and women accomplish projects that are functionally equivalent to corporate work. Furthermore, the military environment cultivates valuable core skills that are difficult to teach.
Every service member, regardless of rank, must develop a strong sense of responsibility in order to succeed. Even those at a junior level have more responsibility than most civilians experience in their day-to-day careers. They're responsible for expensive equipment and for the successful execution of various tasks and initiatives. This translates into a corporate employee who takes ownership of projects and proactively solves problems.
Many veterans are also adept at navigating ambiguous situations. I've often seen an office project derailed due to confusion about who is handling which task and who is in charge. Service members develop the ability to clearly think through a new situation and decide on a plan of action -- even when the outcome can determine life or death. While the stakes are much lower in the private sector, these skills are highly valuable.
Myth 2: Veterans aren't tech savvy.
As the tech industry continues to boom, companies are hurrying to fill more and more essential tech roles. Meanwhile, veterans are an untapped resource that can often be overlooked due to misconceptions about their tech skills and acumen. Many people assume that veterans miss out on the fast-paced tech advances happening in the private sector while serving in the military. There was certainly a time when consumer tech innovation outpaced the military, but the military has more than caught up. Today's soldiers frequently have to use advanced technology to communicate, navigate and analyze data.
There are many units and career paths within the military that involve tech-focused skills. Cyber operations, cryptologic linguists, IT specialists and signal officers are just a few. From an engineering standpoint, many veterans are skilled at working with complex and sophisticated equipment. And forward-thinking companies are starting to take note and recruit veteran talent accordingly. Major companies like Amazon, Tesla and IBM have set up apprenticeship, training and recruiting programs to tap into this highly skilled labor pool.
Myth 3: Veterans won't fit into a corporate culture.
This misconception irks me the most, because teamwork and effective communication -- the backbone of any strong work culture -- are so vital in a military environment. There's a stereotype that veterans are jocks, all brawn and no brain, with an aggressive alpha personality. Another stereotype is that veterans are aloof and intimidating loners who won't be able to relate to office colleagues. This is in no way what I experienced in my 12 years in the military.
What many people don't realize is that the military is an incredibly diverse place, especially compared to what you find in a tech office. I worked with people from all walks of life who were incredibly bright, thoughtful and capable. Above all else, they understood the value of teamwork and collaboration. You will not find a better example of a high-performing team than a small military unit. They achieve outstanding outcomes together because they trust each other and communicate well. I recently hired a veteran at Justworks who had served in the United States Coast Guard. During onboarding, I could tell immediately that this concept was so obvious to him. Effective communication and teamwork are an art, and for veterans they become instincts.
One of my biggest goals for Justworks as we scale is to create opportunities for those who would not otherwise have them, but who are just as skilled and talented as anyone else. Former service men and women absolutely fall within that category. One in 60 employees at Justworks is a veteran, and I am excited to continue to build a diverse workforce as we expand. There are many steps that companies can take to give veterans an equal chance at employment. It starts with letting go of these misconceptions. Keep an open mind, bring in veterans for interviews and see firsthand how wrong these myths are. Otherwise, you're missing out on a valuable group of people who are dedicated, resilient and highly skilled.