Then I read an article here about why companies do or do not hire veterans. It discussed some of the barriers employers perceive in hiring vets and I was surprised at some of the misconceptions and concerns employers might have. After talking to the folks running the fair I decided I would address some of these and describe to potential employers the type of person they are likely to get when they hire a veteran. You know how I like to dispel myths.
The biggest problem according to the article I link to above: It’s difficult to figure out how to translate military skills into applicable work experience in civilian life. – such as responsibility for a big project or management of a team of workers-
Really? When I read this I laughed out loud. A Lieutenant has probably managed up to 40 or so troops in his platoon. A Captain is likely to have been a company commander managing from 150-200 personnel. That’s like managing a small business!
On the enlisted side we have troops who came in as teenagers and by the time they are 20 years old have lead up to 15 or so troops in combat as a squad leader. By the time they are 26 or so they are platoon sergeants training and leading 40 man platoons. It’s kind of funny, on one hand we have a 20 year old leading 15 other guys in combat, making life and death decisions. Yet employers wonder if this same kid can handle 8 other guys working on a civilian job or deal with the stress of a deadline.
But many veterans don’t know how to present their military skills to accentuate those talents.
Here’s a quick translation from military to civilian lingo: you say management, we say leadership. In the military we teach that leadership is the art of influencing people to do things they may not normally want to do: “Like show up to work on time?” I said that and the crowd chuckled as most people are somewhat familiar with the consequences of being late in the military. But leadership, as I said, is about influence not simply barking like a Drill Instructor. The bellicose Sgt glaring and yelling at everyone within sight and hearing is another misconception employers may have. Military leadership is not all done at the top of our lungs. If it were I think I would have burst a blood vessel by now. Positive influence, mentoring, and setting the example are all part of leading others.
All in all I’d say many veterans don’t always successfully translate military lingo and experience into something civilians can understand. It’s one of the reasons why they need to attend transition classes before they ship out. If you’re in the military reading this I advise you attend these classes a year before you PCS. Sign up now.
More than half of the employers also expressed concerns about post-traumatic stress and instability after deployments.
There are a lot of popular misconceptions floating around about your service members. One is that every veteran must have some kind of latent PTSD and is a ticking time bomb waiting to shoot up the joint. Frankly, I’ve heard more about school shootings and post office gun battles than vets going on a rampage. Contrary to the popular media, PTSD does not make you unable to distinguish between right and wrong. It does not make you crazy or turn you into a monster. It’s not something I think employers need to worry about. As a matter of fact, I’ll wager veterans come to work with less emotional baggage than your average civilian of the same age. They’ve developed the emotional and psychological armor to deal with the real world. The big girls and big boys are the ones coming home. The idea we all come back unstable is an outright lie.
Employers also said another problem was a mismatch between the skills veterans have and the ones they need for civilian jobs.
Yes, they are pretty much all overqualified. Again, I feel the biggest setback is translating military lingo to something employers understand. If, for instance, they understood seeing prospective employees have attended NCO School meant graduation from a leadership/personnel management course, they might look at vets in a different light. Companies usually pay thousands of dollars for their people to attend similar courses in the civilian world.
Another misconception about vets claims people only join the military because they have no other choice. It is contended they are less educated and live in poverty to begin with. The truth is military members are better educated and have more money than their civilian counterparts. Don’t believe me? Ask the Heritage Foundation.
There are many intangible benefits to hiring vets. They understand concepts like teamwork, it’s no longer just about them. They show up on time and understand commitment having shown it with their service. They are trainable, our military is capable of doing anything you tell them to. They are not a one trick pony. We can blow up bridges and we can build them. Not only are they capable of defeating their enemies on the battlefield, but they have rendered aid to strangers in Japan, Haiti, Pakistan, built schools and infrastructure all over the world. They’ll do what is expected of them and are willing to work.
One of my Reserve Staff Sergeants came back from Afghanistan last year and went looking for a job. He walked into some kind of counselor’s office whose job it was to help folks find work. The counselor immediately advised the Marine he should just go on unemployment and not worry about a job for the time being. The SSgt stated he wasn’t interested in unemployment, he wanted to work. The counselor continued to push the unemployment route until the SSgt thanked him for nothing and walked. The SSgt is currently in Officer Candidate School becoming a Marine officer.
The kind of people coming home from the service want to work for a living. They are not looking for employers to give them something for nothing. They understand values like fidelity, commitment, and integrity. In the Marines we like the say the Corps does three things: make Marines, win battles, and return citizens back their communities better than when we got them. There are some great citizens coming back to your community. Put them to work.