Military Veteran Talent: Practical Impediments to Executing a Veteran-Focused Employment Strategy
By: James Tongate
“Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character” - John Wooden
Don’t just thank a military veteran for their service to our great nation – make it a point to learn more by asking “why” they chose to serve. The answers will vary ranging from “I felt a need to serve my country” to “to pay for my education and learn a trade.” Regardless of the answer, I guarantee that you’ll note a gleam of honor and appreciation for your question.
Military veterans are a special breed of human beings much like those in other professions (e.g. Police Officers, Fire Fighters, Doctors, etc.). Regardless of politics, the economy or other distractions – our nation’s military always remains focused and on task for the defense of our nation. Many Servicemembers have indeed sacrificed much, and ever since 9/11/2001, military operations tempo remains high and shows no sign of slowing down. Whether it be through the regular attrition rates for retirements or finishing up their contracted term limits, Servicemembers will eventually transition out and seek a meaningful career as a civilian.
While the “sea of goodwill” continues for many employers executing veteran-focused employment strategies, some employers fall short with the very basics of building a culture where military veteran talent is championed and grows beyond typical clichés (e.g. most / all military have PTSD, non-translation of skills/experience for their industry, etc.). Now granted, the onus is on the military veteran to appropriately research employers, their culture, career opportunities, as well as appropriately translate their skills/experience on to their resume in “civilian-speak” and not bogged down with military jargon – the military veteran must compete!
An employer must begin their journey first by educating their talent recruiters, HR business partners and hiring managers on the unique military cultures (e.g. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard) within the over-arching military culture. This includes, but is not limited to rank structure (enlisted vs officer), active duty vs reserve duty, occupations, missions and much more.
Military Servicemembers are four times better educated / trained than most civilians as they attend different levels of schools:
- For their occupation(s)
- For promotion levels
- For management / leadership roles (1st Sgt, Commander, etc.)
- Personal education (e.g. college/university)
They must understand that it takes a bit more time to peel back the layers of the military Service member onion to learn about many of the soft skills & attributes characteristic that also parallel their education levels…this includes:
- Team Players
- Experienced Leadership
- Strong Work Ethic
- Quick Learners
- High Impact Decision-Maker
- Diverse Perspectives
Only then will companies begin to scratch the surface with a much better understanding on the true value any military Servicemember would bring to their business.