Over 200,000 U.S. Armed Forces service members return to civilian life every year.
Veterans Day is a time to especially recognize our country’s military vets for their service and sacrifice, but there are several ways that businesses and leaders can say “thank you” that impacts these heroes’ lives in a larger way, while helping companies thrive at the same time!
Supporting the Transition to a Civilian Workplace
Many people may think that when veterans transition from the military to civilian life, they’re going back to a life that’s familiar, but that’s not the case. One vet, working with Veterati, describes leaving the service this way: “You’re transitioning not from one industry to another, but literally from one culture — one ecosystem — to an entirely different world.”
A military lifestyle is vastly different from a civilian one, and while the skills that service members learn and develop are highly valuable, businesses can struggle to see how they translate to the workplace. When hiring managers don’t understand the language and terminology used on a service member’s resume, they fail to see how the vet is qualified for a role.
A good way to counteract these missed talent connections is through having a current employee who’s a veteran involved in veteran recruitment efforts, or educating your recruiters on how military skills and experience can translate to the skills needed for various roles in the company.
Core skills learned in military training involve leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, and communication, on top of character-building discipline, reliability, organization, and passion. These skills and characteristics are all valuable and translatable to the needs of any company – unfortunately there are a couple main stereotypes of veterans that can cloud people’s mindsets and create an unconscious bias against hiring them.
One of the most common stereotypes is that everyone who leaves the service suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Statistically, that belief is far from correct. According to the government’s national center for PTSD, about ten percent of Americans in the general population have this condition, while 11-20% of veterans suffer from PTSD. Unsurprisingly, the percentage is higher for vets, but you’re still much more likely to have candidates who aren’t experiencing PTSD than those who are.
Another common but false belief is that military training is all about following orders – that innovative thinking is stifled, and veterans are more apt to follow than lead. In reality, many veteran candidates will be more qualified managers and leaders than those in the civilian candidate pool, based on the extensive training and experience they have with problem-solving tactics, quick and effective decision-making, and clear communication.
Unconscious bias is more pervasive than we’d all like to admit, but hopefully, understanding the facts will help to eradicate any false stereotypes that may be impeding decisions for hiring talented veterans.
Make an Impact as a Mentor
The good news is that the veteran unemployment rate is currently at a record low of 2.7 percent, thanks to a growing number of government-sponsored programs, privately developed initiatives, and veteran recruiting programs within businesses. These programs are aimed at placing talented former service members in positions where their skills can make huge contributions to the culture and success of the company.
Since the transition back to civilian life comes with many struggles, other types of programs that are growing involve connecting veterans with mentors. Having a mentor can help a veteran understand how their skills, experience, and ambitions fit into work outside the military. The nature of this relationship also helps the mentor to develop themselves, as they think through their own responses to questions raised for the mentee.
Being a veteran isn’t a necessary requirement for being a mentor to another vet, but it can certainly be helpful to have that shared perspective. Victoria Tucker, CEO of ZBGlobal, states that the most important characteristic in a mentor is their “willlingness to connect in a meaningful fashion.”
Making a meaningful connection with someone who is looking out for their well-being can be invaluable to a veteran who is used to having close connections with their team. Your mentoring relationship can open up many doors to help a veteran assimilate into a new environment where teamwork may look different, but can be just as rewarding.
Mentors ask open-ended, thought-provoking questions, listen intently, and share related experiences to put advice into concrete terms. A main function of mentoring is to help the mentee turn thoughts and ideas into action steps for moving their career forward. Having goals in place at the start of the mentorship will help you steer conversations and look objectively at roadblocks to success, whether they’re physical, emotional, relational, or cultural.
If you take on the role of mentoring a veteran, you can be sure you’ll benefit as much as they will from the relationship. This is a unique way to express your gratitude to someone for their service and sacrifice, and an important aspect of helping veterans successfully transition to work as a civilian.
Whether it’s mentoring veterans who’ve joined your company, or getting connected through a program like Hire Our Heroes or Veterati, this is an opportunity to make a difference first-hand in the life of someone who has already made a difference in yours.