Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that veterans who actively served now make up about 8.5% of the civilian population. There are many resources for veterans returning to the civilian workforce, which can be a difficult transition for many men and women who served.
In many instances, there is a lot of anxiety over forging into the unknown, since many veterans have only ever held positions in the military. They struggle with knowing where to begin when looking for a job that fits their skill set, and they can get easily frustrated as a result. They also struggle with knowing how to translate the work that they have done in the military into civilian terminology – i.e Adjutant General Corps = HR in the corporate world.
Data shows that unemployment among veterans is startling high — especially since the start of our current global crisis. In April, the unemployment rate among veterans sat at 11.7% (triple the rate in February 2020). Yet, military service prepares our veterans for a range of dynamic professions — along with incredible qualities unique to our bravest Americans.
I’ve personally seen how the leadership and hands-on experience of veterans leads to successful civilian careers. My husband is a veteran, and three of my children currently serve. They are bright, educated, brave Americans who proudly serve or have served. And the military has provided them with invaluable skills that they would not have acquired in a normal corporate setting but that have prepared them well for careers outside of the military.
In today’s workforce, and especially among recruiters and hiring managers, there is a trend to focus on direct experience. Dotting i’s and crossing t’s is important, but it’s critical that organizations take a well-rounded approach to hiring. Changing the current, popular mindset will not only put more veterans to work, it’ll help organizations build stronger, more successful teams.
To start, here are just a FEW of the benefits your organization will find when hiring veterans:
> They are accustomed to working long hours in order to accomplish a mission.
> They thrive in team settings and understand the importance of every contributor.
> They are fantastic at tasking, leading and managing up.
> More than anything, they are willing to commit to something greater than themselves.
Rather than focusing job interviews on bragging about their achievements, you’ll notice veterans speak more to their commitment and loyalty. In a changing world where retention is a massive issue and “job hopping” is almost considered a positive, that loyalty is especially powerful.
How your organization can not only support veterans, but take advantage of the benefits of hiring them.
Supporting veterans and helping them transition into successful civilian careers is undoubtedly a patriotic, wonderful way to show support for the men and women who so bravely serve our country. But it also makes good business sense.
As I noted, veterans face some challenges in their transition to the civilian workforce. Here are some ways your organization can help them in that transition (and take advantage of the incredible benefits these veterans bring to your business):
Craft better job postings
I touched upon this earlier, but many veterans have never been in the traditional, corporate world. As a result, they look at a job board and often have difficulty knowing which job postings are a fit for their backgrounds.
You can help clarify this for veterans by crafting better job postings. In some cases, there are easy connections between military roles and civilian jobs. For example, cybersecurity is just as applicable (and in demand) in business as it is in the military (and certainly, military training and experience in this field is at the cutting edge).
In many other instances, though, the connection isn’t as clear. For example, someone who was in the infantry or drove a tank couldn’t take those skills and directly apply them to a civilian role. But the soft skills developed in those branches and roles are HIGHLY desirable for every organization. Good communication, teamwork, quick and timely execution of a mission/objective, and of course strong leadership.
Soft skills are not frequently highlighted in job postings, but digging into some of the soft skills you’re seeking (and taking an open mind to the teachable, technical skills) can make it easier for veterans to know they are a fit.
Here at Matlen Silver, we have a program specifically designed for incredible candidates who may fall somewhat short in technical skills. When one of our clients falls in love with a candidate, we’ll help skill-up that candidate and give that person the technical skills needed to complement their background and strengths. It’s a win for the candidates and an absolute win for our clients.
Also, we are proud to be working with an incredible organization called Veteran’s Bridge Home. They are a non-profit organization that helps veterans find ways to up-skill or network in order to boost their civilian careers. During today’s challenging times, non-profit organizations and veterans are especially struggling. The suicide risk for veterans was alarmingly high pre-COVID, at 20%. Research found that that for every 5 percent increase in the unemployment rate, our country will lose an additional 550 veterans to suicide annually. If you are able, a donation to Veteran’s Bridge Home could make a profound impact on our veterans and their families.
Your organization may want to either consider something similar, or of course, consider partnering with us (!) to take full advantage.
Start a dedicated veteran hiring initiative
Starting a veteran hiring initiative in your company is an excellent way to engage and help veterans, and to create a targeted pipeline of highly qualified talent. Stating that you want to help veterans and add them to your organization is nice, but without a formal process in place to specifically attract and hire veteran talent, you’re unlikely to move the needle.
You can approach a program like this in a few different ways.
1) You can build a program that specifically seeks to attract veteran talent. This could encompass tweaks, additions and changes at multiple steps in your hiring process to ensure that veterans are actively encouraged to apply. Or, it could be an entirely separate program from your current hiring process. A dedicated program could also include on the job training programs like I mentioned above.
2) You can develop a culture (and process, if needed) that actively connects and engages any veterans that apply to jobs or inquire about your company. Even if you don’t have job openings that are a match, taking the time and effort to encourage veterans through the process could make a profound difference on the mindset and success of our nation’s bravest men and women.
Many veterans have worked with organizations like Hiring Our Heroes, or recruiting agencies that cater specifically to military veterans in transition. Rather than waiting for those organizations to reach out to YOU, I instead encourage you to reach out to and connect with veterans organizations in your cities. These organizations understand veterans, their qualifications and their job search needs tremendously well. As I mentioned earlier, we work with Veteran’s Bridge Home here in Charlotte, and they offer tremendous resources to help veterans throughout their civilian careers. Google, Facebook groups or the VA may be able to help you find specific resources in your area.
When you’re interviewing veterans, it’s understandable that you want to show your appreciation for their selfless service and sacrifice. But, keep in mind that many of our veterans are uncomfortable with the phrase “thank you for your service.” When at this critical juncture of their lives and careers, they’d much rather hear you ask, “how can we help you take the next step in your career?” Although your “thank you” is nice, veterans transitioning into the civilian workforce want to move forward.
Are you looking for talented, engaged professionals?
Here at Matlen Silver, we are extremely proud to have strong relationships with professionals across the country. To learn more about Matlen Silver and how we can help your team achieve more, contact us today.