By Rick Rogers
What used to be only whispered is finally public knowledge: Human resource managers are leery of hiring veterans.
There are two reasons for this, according to Chad Storlie, 44, author of “Combat Leader to Corporate Leader: 20 Lessons to Advance Your Civilian Career.”
One regards post traumatic stress disorder and how hiring someone with it or other lingering combat issues might impact an existing workforce.
The second revolves around questions of just how transferable military skills are to civilian employment.
Storlie attended last June’s Society for Human Resource Management conference and exposition held in San Diego. He said human resources and hiring managers there talked about their misgivings.
“I think that both are false perceptions based on people not knowing,” said Storlie. “But it does mean in this hiring environment that vets will have to go above and beyond in selling themselves and their skills to employers.”
A retired Army officer, Storlie, 44, said neither concern is a job killer but does mean veterans have just one way to land that job: work harder.
“A lot falls on the vet to explain how they can translate their military jobs skills into the business” they are seeking entry into. “They also must put HR managers at ease.”
Storlie said the bottom line for employers is whether a veteran can bring skills to their organizations. The answer is a resounding yes, he said.
Military service, he said, fosters adherence to teamwork, carrying out detailed procedures and on-time performance, all job traits sought in career fields such as transportation, warehousing and light manufacturing.
But it might be the abilities to self-promote and network that lands that job, especially in San Diego County, which has the largest Iraq and Afghanistan veteran population in the country. And their numbers are growing.
Though unemployment figures for veterans vary, the rate is believed to be twice that of civilians. Depending on how that is calculated, that means that it’s anywhere from 20 percent to 35 percent. Unemployment figures for disabled veterans, a growing category, is reportedly a staggering 47 percent.
Storlie offers this employment advice:
1. Leverage your military experience to your company and job. Veterans need to translate their military skills to their businesses and organizations in a fashion that supports the culture and work practices of their company. First, sit down and describe one accomplishment that you performed in the military, the problem that it solved and why it was successful. Second, list the skills that you used to accomplish the military task successfully. Third, list problems within the company that could be solved by using some or all of these skills. For example, maybe you started a regular meeting of tribal elders or shopkeepers in your area of operations in Afghanistan to discuss problems and look for solutions. These meetings produced military skill sets of coordination, negotiation, planning and leadership. Could you set up a series of meetings with your company’s customers to generate ideas and discussion on what your company could provide in the future?
2. Start a veterans network in your organization. You do not have to have all the great ideas. Get a group of veterans together, brainstorm and plan how to implement military skills to solve your organization’s problems. Military Veteran Employee Resource Groups serve a variety of roles to help companies employ more veterans, keep veterans on as employees, serve as a resource base for deployed employees and help veterans translate military skills into improving the company’s business. No matter your organization’s size, a military veteran ERG is a great idea.
3. “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” — John le Carre.
In the military, inspections, field visits and “walking the line” are an implicit responsibility for leaders at all levels. In business, conducting field visits with customers, manufacturing locations, and the like can make a huge difference in your career, allow you to understand the business and establish a special relationship with your customers. If you do not know what to do, get out and look at the problem from your customer’s perspective.
For more of Storlie’s tips on employment, visit combattocorporate.com/resources.