“In the survey, many employers said veterans are perceived as heroes and not necessarily as assets to the company ― a part of the study that jumped out to Lynch. She said veteran experiences are sometimes idealized and put on a pedestal. That makes it hard for veterans to be perceived normally.
‘We do a disservice if we continue to sort of generalize this labor market of veteran talent,’ she said. ‘They’re not all heroes. They’re not all great leaders.’”
- “Study: Companies still don’t understand veterans” by Natalie Gross
It’s nice to be a Veteran these days. Really. And I, for one, really am grateful for your gratitude and appreciation.
I remember sitting in uniform at an airport restaurant with my family because I was going to deploy, and an anonymous stranger bought our meals. My last job thanked all the Veterans in the office and brought us delicious Red Velvet cake on Veteran’s Day. And for all of these thoughts, encouragement, and acts of appreciation, we all thank you!
That being said, the quote above is 100% real and completely true. (Read the entire article here.) Not all Veterans are “heroes,” (as regarded in the save-the-world sense) nor are they all great leaders. Yes, we all volunteered to serve in the Armed Forces during a time of war, and each of us has a warrior spirit and a sheepdog mentality. But as you can imagine, not a lot of Veterans have done what’s being depicted by Hollywood, because we all had different jobs and purposes while serving to defend our nation’s freedoms.
Here’s an analogy. For many organizations, their sales are the primary focus. So when a salesperson needs some specs and brochures to initiate a sales call to a prospective customer, the marketing team, operations, and R&D may get involved. If a customer has an issue with a recent purchase, a salesperson may tap customer service and engineering. If there’s potential litigation due to a faulty product, quality control, legal, and even HR may get involved. Each team has a lane and expertise to share to assist in a happy customer, who then buys.
This is the same for the military. For every warfighter in the “sandbox” in Afghanistan, who has the mission of being a combatant (to find and defeat enemy forces), there are a number of other non-combatants that need to support this warfighter. There are those who directly support these efforts – logistics, communications, mechanics, intel, aviation, etc. – and those who provide support state-side – medical doctors, legal, physical training, equipment providers, etc.
A Veteran can come from any of these backgrounds and hence have a unique story and narrative from their time in service. For example, you can read mine here.
To see a Veteran’s value and ability to be an asset for your organization, you must first hear and understand that individual’s story.
For the Employer –
Three quick recommendations on how to do this:
1. Find current Veteran employees and ask for their help. This is not an HR function. This is an operational function. Ask them to identify other Veterans and how you can better understand compatibility with their previous and current roles. Ask how you can better enable Vets during on-boarding and beyond. Typically Army soldiers know just about the Army, Navy seaman the Navy, etc., so finding one Veteran per Branch of Service is best.
2. Hold a panel with your Veteran employees so they can address your organization. Not only is this a way to recognize Veterans on Nov 11th, it will be a way to help communicate their value and create a sense of transparency for the rest of your company. These panelists can share a quick story of their background, how they feel their background has helped with their current role, and an interesting problem they had to solve while in service. Then a Q&A session.
3. Retain the services of Veteran organizations to help navigate this world. Go contact Angel Torres at Veteran Engagement Solutions LLC, who can help you become certified through the Dept. of Labor (DOL) Medallion Program. Find a recruiting firm like MilSpec Capital to help you find the right Veteran leaders to fill your specific hiring needs, so that they can deliver the Leadership that your organization needs.
For the Veteran –
1. Craft your story. Start with the end in mind and determine what you want to convey about yourself and your experiences. Then build a narrative that brings your audience through your journey as a Veteran leader and transitioned Service Member. Fill the gaps with stories that share these themes that emphasize your strengths and interests. Be sure to not make it too long and unwieldy… KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)!
2. If looking for your next career, be very clear on how your experiences enable you to be a valuable candidate for that specific role. It helps to understand what the company values and what attributes they look for in their employees. You can polish your background so that you can highlight points in your stories that resonate with these competencies and attributes. Expound upon your successes! You must be laser focused so that you don’t confuse your potential employers with superfluous information that they don’t really need.
3. Hook up your fellow Veterans with career opportunities that match their interests and strengths. You can look to apply for the Maven Network that actually incentivizes you to connect fellow Vets with great job opportunities, by leveraging your existing personal and professional networks. Share resources and tools to help other Veterans succeed, because they are also representing our tribe.