Memorial Day brings a renewed focus on veterans, providing an opportunity to thank them for their service. Often overlooked, however, are the challenges veterans often face when trying to find work after their military commitment ends. 250,000 service members transition out of the military into the civilian workforce every year, and many of them find adjustment difficult. As an employer, there are steps you can take to ease their transition and set them up for future success.
Differences Between Military & Civilian Life
Military service has both its challenges and rewards. Employers who frequently interview veterans will benefit from an understanding of the difficulties these ex-military members face when looking for work in the civilian sector. Justin Constantine, a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, wrote a book for veterans attempting to transition into civilian jobs; From WE WILL to AT WILL: A Handbook for Veteran Hiring, Transitioning, and Thriving in the Workplace is a practical guide for both former military personnel and potential employers, providing each with real-world case studies, recommendations, and excellent resources and tools that help explain the culture and mindset of veterans and offer employers plenty of reasons to find a place for them within their organizations.
There are several key points Constantine emphasizes that will help hiring managers better understand the veterans they are interviewing. Highlights include:
- Military personnel never have to interview for jobs. Other than an initial battery of tests to determine eligibility, military personnel rely on a career planner to decide on the type of work they are best suited for, usually based on the needs of the service and individual job fit.
- Veterans don’t always emphasize their accomplishments. While civilian candidates probably have experience with companies similar to yours and can provide examples of past work that matches the job description, veterans often find it difficult to summarize their skills and values – even though their work may align with what you are seeking.
- Veterans are taught the value of the team over individuals. Civilians applying for jobs understand the importance of highlighting their personal accomplishments, but veterans may have trouble talking about their individual achievements given the emphasis on teamwork in the military.
- Veterans may take their skills for granted. Veterans are used to the company of other veterans and service members and don’t necessarily view their skills as unique. They may be unaware that their military skills and experience can be extremely beneficial in the private sector. Other important other critical soft skills that offer a solid foundation for success in the civilian workforce.