Many Americans can still remember the Vietnam War and how poorly U.S. military members were treated in that era. In stark contrast, today America military veterans are often praised and hailed as heroes, regardless of the specifics of their service. Thankfully, the U.S. has made enormous strides in veteran care, and veterans here are treated better than anywhere else in the world.
Every year, approximately 200,000 service members exit the military and embark upon the journey of the military to civilian transition process. These newly minted veterans come from hundreds of different job types and multiple branches of military service, all leaving with a unique set of skills and experiences learned in that job. However, regardless of the job type that a veteran held while serving, there are many common threads that all veterans share with one another. Characteristics such as attention to detail, teamwork and the ability to thrive in a feedback-rich environment span the spectrum and apply to almost all veterans — even more so in those who are newly transitioned from service.
Understanding what a veteran can offer your organization is a complex process if you’ve never served and don’t understand certain terminology or background information. Many employers (innocently) dilute a veteran’s marketable skills to hard work and discipline. But veterans don’t have the market cornered on hard work, and they bring many other intangibles to the table which are vital for security professionals to understand. Translating this language of military service can be difficult, but here are some tips that may help guide the conversation and help envision where a veteran can help your company.
More important than their job, what were their assigned responsibilities?
All service members are assigned a job in the military. However, not all service members perform the traditional tasks associated with that job. For example, I served as a U.S. Army infantry officer on active duty for over six years. During that time, in addition to traditional infantry duties, I performed complex logistical duties and was even assigned as an Assistant Professor at a university on behalf of the Army. Unfortunately, the traditional hiring questions don’t normally bring these experiences to light, and years of service are scrolled over in a matter of minutes. Take the time to unpack service members’ experiences, and prompt them to dig a bit deeper about their specific duties. When recruiting or searching for veterans to join your organization, focus less on job titles and more on experiences.
What leadership roles or additional responsibilities did they hold?
Many veterans held some sort of leadership role or additional responsibility during their time in service. But the veteran may not see why the additional title of “Arms Room NCO” would matter to a prospective employer. Taking the time to dig deeper and inquire about the responsibilities that an Arms Room NCO has would lead you to the conclusion that this veteran could potentially serve as a Gun Custodian for your organization, for example. There are many other examples just like this, but the takeaway is to prompt the veteran to dig deeper and prepare them with these types of questions before sitting down for a chat. Prompting is key, as many prospective candidates may write off these parts of their military service as irrelevant or unimportant.
What did they bring to the table as a team member?
There are few, if any, jobs in the military that do not operate as a team. Employers will often ask questions like “give me an example of a time you were part of a team.” The difficulty of answering this question for veterans is that for the most part, there hasn’t ever been a time that they weren’t part of a team. The difference between a 22-year-old veteran who just left the military and a 22-year-old recent college graduate is that the military veteran already understands how to be a contributing member of a team. That veteran understands how to pull their weight and what unique abilities they bring to the table. This puts them in a position where, after some time getting to learn the industry, they can be placed into positions of trust much quicker than a recent college graduate.
While this advice and these examples aren’t exhaustive and don’t apply to every single veteran, it holds true for many. As an employer in the security industry, this matters because of the countless parallels between the job of service members and the job of security professionals. By utilizing the prompts above, it’s easy to see how any veteran from any military background could be a natural fit as a security professional for your organization.