Employers have many reasons to want to hire military veterans entering the civilian world. Vets are disciplined, educated and well-trained to understand and comply with policies. It’s no secret that military work environments operate very differently than civilian places of employment.
After spending years working for a branch of the armed forces, it can be a challenge for vets to switch into civilian mode. It is invaluable to employers to learn these potential challenges in advance to make the transition smoother.
Here are a few examples of what employers need to understand when hiring veterans.
1.) Understand Their Lingo
Military lingo is complicated and not widely known to the civilian world. Veterans might struggle with translating their skills and military career experience on a resume. Even if they are qualified for a job, the HR department at a job might not know what the veteran applicant is trying to convey on their resume and trash it.
Suggested Fix: Alert the HR staff when an applicant states they are a veteran. Reviewing veteran résumés may take a little reading between the lines. The Transition can also help with resume services and translating military jargon.
2.) Understand They’re Adjusting
Many veterans who began their service right out of high school and might have never been on a traditional job interview.
For example, Josh entered ROTC straight out of high school. After commissioning, he served for eight years as a military officer, leading troops to daily success in their unit mission. He won several awards, and his troops always did their best working for him. But Josh decided to get out of the service.
He attended a one-week Transition GPS (Goals, Plans, Success) class, which included an hour-long résumé workshop. And his polished résumé got him an interview… the first civilian job interview he’s ever had!
Despite four years of college on a military scholarship and eight years of active duty, he has never been through an actual job interview.
Josh goes in nervous and unprepared and has no idea what to expect. The hiring manager asks Josh about his greatest weakness, so Josh fumbles, trying to be honest because it is in his nature to be frank and objective. Another person in the interview asks him how he handled a difficult situation at work, so Josh launches into a story about a rocket attack in Baghdad.
He’s actually fully qualified for the job, but the questions throw him for a loop. The hiring committee decides to pass and hire a less qualified internal applicant who has been with the company for years.
Suggested Fix: An in-person interview can be particularly stressful for a person who has never been through one, or hasn’t experienced one in several years. Letting all candidates know what to expect at the interview goes a long way. Many companies even send the questions ahead of time, which is especially helpful for vets like Josh, who like to plan things out.
3.) Understand They Are Driven to Perform
Military careers train people to act fast, do things correctly on the first try, and constantly be on the go. These attributes may not translate well to civilian careers that are more laid back and allow room for the occasional error.
Shawna was a combat-hardened medical technician who ended up being medically retired from service. With her solid background and nerves of steel, she easily landed a good-paying civilian job. Her co-workers have noticed that she is always ramped up. She operates at a fast pace, is critical of errors and sometimes behaves like she wants to take over the place. She is mildly annoying her peers with her drive and occasional lack of protocol.
Suggested Fix: This can be handled through feedback sessions including praise and explaining the rules and proceedings of the new work environment. Explain the roles of the civilian job with mission parameters and allow time for veterans to adjust to a new lower-stakes work environment.
4.) Understand How to Keep Them Engaged
Greg loved his twenty years in the military, but the deployment tempo was keeping him away from his family too much. Reluctantly, he got out… but had no clue what he wanted to do as a civilian.
In the service, he’d attained a relatively high rank and was used to being in charge of personnel and processes. After retirement, he felt lost, but decided to take a job which seemed to be a good fit based on his military career.
Greg finds a civilian job that is a good fit for his skills, but starts to want more responsibility. He has trouble sitting still, and tries to engage in situations which aren’t really in his lane. His boss notices he is a real stickler for rules, which isn’t a bad thing. Greg wasn’t hired to do quality assurance and his co-workers have grown frustrated and complained.
Suggested Fix: It’s likely that Greg is being slightly underutilized and needs more to do. His work efficiency allows for him to have more free time at work. He wants to use this to find ways to improve processes. When this happens, find ways to tap into it. He’s bringing years of process management experience to the table, so channel his tendencies to productive use!
5.) Understand Their Candor and Return It
Military culture is still ingrained in Lisa despite being out of the service for a few years. She’d joined at an early age, and spent over a decade being shaped by the various pressures of mission requirements, which just didn’t allow for any “beating around the bush.” Lisa gained a tendency to be blunt and forthcoming which isn’t what many people want.
This doesn’t mean she’s not diplomatic, but when people ask her opinion, she actually gives it to them because that’s how she was trained. Lisa believes we all have to be honest and objective.
By the same token, she does well when people respond to her in a similar fashion. Many of her peers prefer to talk “around the subject” instead of confronting an issue head on. Her supervisor tends to be the avoidant type, which causes stress between them.
Suggested Fix: Many times, people tend to be shy when talking to others and try to be sensitive and understanding. To truly show sensitivity to a veteran means holding a dialogue in the zone where they are most comfortable; in an upfront and transparent manner. It won’t hurt their feelings, it will instead lead to more productive discussions! They just want clear guidance, so they can get the job done quickly and correctly.
This list offers many valuable insights into the mindset of former service members. Every person is unique, but veterans have shared backgrounds, experiences, and training which stamps their personalities. Knowing how they approach things will help employers who want to benefit from the diligent work ethics and energetic attitudes vets can bring to civilian careers.