Veterans Entering the Civilian Work Force

Veterans Day just ended and, despite what I believe was the largest Veterans Day Parade ever held in Manhattan, it really did not register around the city.  True, the banks and Post Office were closed, but it was just a regular work day.

There are two things that I tell my fellow Americans that my fellow Canadians do better than they do.  The first, we Canadians went on the metric system.  I remember it well.  Soon, no doubt, there will be a president in the White House bold enough to sound the death knell to feet, yards, quarts and gallons, not to mention Fahrenheit!

The second thing is poppies.  I still remember the opening lines to the poem, “In Flanders Fields the poppies blow, Between the crosses row on row…”  From October to November 11, Remembrance Day in Canada, everyone wears a poppy in their lapels.  Veterans sell them on street corners for a quarter.  It just is not done that someone would walk around without one.  At least in my day that was the case.  I remember one member of Parliament being chastised for appearing in Parliament without a poppy.  It was on his overcoat and he forgot to put it on his suit jacket when he entered the Chamber.  He did not have a good day.

Of course, poppies are symbols and you can’t eat symbols.  The only tangible way to recognize veterans is to help them get a job.  That, as most readers of this blog know, is the mission of my company.

The good news for veterans is that they are beneficiaries of assumptions.  If someone served in the military, and was honorably discharged, by definition they have to be responsible, dependable, and professional.  They must be able to take orders.  Whenever I say that to a veteran, regardless of rank, they always smile and react the same way, “Boy, could I tell you stories!”  (Surprisingly, the Marines don’t say that!)

And they are, of course, correct.  There are soldiers and there are soldiers; there are sailors and there are sailors; there are airmen and there are airmen, there are officers and there are officers, and there are even Marines and Marines.  But all, and this is a good thing, are given the benefit of the doubt, or the misconception.

One of the negative assumptions, especially as concerns officers, is that they are not team builders.  They are used to giving orders and having them followed, no questions asked.  Not so!

First, as it has been explained to me, when an officer is given an order he, or she, relays it to the troops who will actually carry it out.  The good officers always ask for input about how best to succeed.  There is never a debate about the ends, only a discussion about the means.  What could be better?

Second, many officers have civilians working for them.  You can’t bark orders at a civilian.  So these individuals know exactly what it is like to be part of the civilian workforce.

The major problem that veterans face, from the perspective of finding work is, to quote Cool Hand Luke, “We have a failure to communicate.”  Let me explain:

Let’s say I have a client in Brooklyn who needs a warehouse manager.  I’ve got the perfect candidate.  The man was responsible for a warehouse in Iraq.  The client’s warehouse stores textiles.  The candidate’s warehouse stored munitions.  Who cares?  Thousands of unique items stored in a huge facility, everything computerized and scores of workers.  A warehouse, is a warehouse, is a warehouse.  It’s the same job.  The warehouse owner will fully understand what the veteran did.  They speak the same language.  The same is true for administrative personnel.

The problem is when the veteran had a job for which there is no corresponding position in civilian life.  The best example I have is a resume I received from a sniper.  I read his resume and had to laugh.  There was nothing funny about his work.  He was and is a hero.  But I was imagining the face of the HR director who would receive the resume.  She would smile and say to herself, “I would love to hire this guy.  There are a few employees…”  Well, you get the picture.

I called him up.  A nicer person I have never spoken with.  He had a great sense of humor.  I told him to forget about what he had actually done in the military.  “No one is going to hire a sniper!”  But then I told him to definitely note that he had been a sniper and to explain what that meant.  He can work alone, understands the importance of teamwork (no contradiction), is exceedingly patient, can remained focused, can handle stress, and is a decision maker.  Additionally, I suggested that he mention his supervisory experience and the dollar value of the equipment for which he had been responsible.  I also told him not to be humorous on his resume, but in an interview, after mentioning the above referenced character traits that made him successful, I suggested he add, “and if you need someone who can hide and run real fast, I’m your man!”  He laughed.

There are plenty of advantages to hiring veterans.  Employers could be entitled to tax benefits.  (Check with your accountant.)  And, with very few exceptions, from what I have seen from the scores of veterans who I have interviewed, especially from Iraq and Afghanistan, there are some really stellar people out there who will make their employers proud – just like they did their country.  So hire a veteran!