By Nicole Paquette
It would be an understatement to say that the process of separating from the military is daunting, a fact that every veteran who has gone through it can probably attest to. After spending years of my life as an active-duty member in the U.S. Coast Guard, within a regimented system with a strict set of guidelines, the concept of working as a civilian was difficult to wrap my head around.
I believe every veteran is responsible for finding their own way through the separation process, because the Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP) course isn’t sufficient without individual effort. But many veterans struggle when it comes time to find a job, and it would be valuable for employers to understand more about where we are coming from as well as how to appeal to – and accommodate for – veterans during the hiring process.
In many ways, the recruitment and hiring process for veterans is no different than it would be for anyone else. But there are some differences and sensitivities that employers should keep in mind.
Here are my top three tips for employers looking to hire veterans and how to integrate this valuable talent pool into their workforce:
1) Be military friendly and promote accordingly
For employers interested in hiring veterans, the first step is to build your brand towards being an organization that is military and veteran-friendly, such as by including a line in each job posting highlighting that fact. It may also be useful to include the names of the branches to attract veteran applicants, in the listings themselves as well as any social media accounts. A great tool to include would be common hashtags that service members and veterans follow and use themselves. To really align this intention with action, research the most common certifications soldiers acquire and the duties they perform during their career or, even better, consult with a service member or veteran to overcome a massive hurdle in veteran job searches: translating a veteran’s resume.
Communicating the value of their skills and qualifications in a way that matches up with a job posting is more difficult for veterans–especially since the vast majority of hiring managers are civilians. The military relies heavily on acronyms, so the resumes of most veterans are full of them and to the average civilian, many of these acronyms are foreign; this is one of the biggest barriers to veteran hiring. Having someone “in the know” can help clarify how these certifications and duties translate into a particular position or industry is invaluable. Making this extra effort will not only ensure highly qualified candidates are not being filtered out based on a misunderstanding, it will also show a company’s commitment to being military-friendly is more than just marketing.
2) Highlight benefits that appeal to veterans
When veterans separate from the military, they take with them a slew of lifetime benefits: health insurance, education assistance, disability compensation, eligibility for a VA mortgage loan and many, many more. That being said, veterans will be looking for more than just a good health plan and vacation time to make a benefits package appealing. A few of the benefits I’ve found particularly valuable following my transition are health insurance for family members/dependents, dental and vision insurance, and a 401K plan to save for retirement. Despite free and excellent healthcare for veterans, our benefits don’t include health insurance for family members/dependents, dental or vision care.
Another benefit veterans may look for from a future employer is the opportunity to use allocated time off to volunteer. After serving in the military and spending the majority of their career helping others, veterans are more likely to work at companies that allow them to continue to give back to the community. Advertising these benefits, as well as any coordination with nonprofits, charities or other donation-matching programs, is likely to pique the interest of veterans and encourage them to apply.
3) Banish stigmas and stereotypes
Despite the modern world we live in, veterans are still contending with outdated stereotypes and assumptions about who they are and what they want, especially in the professional world. There is a standard misconception of veterans as old, disabled and uninterested in integrating into American society, but these stereotypes couldn’t be further from the truth. While there are, of course, veterans of all ages, many veterans entered the military at 18 or 19, chose to serve for 4 years and are now in their 20s. I personally have a hard time thinking of myself as a veteran, in part because of the stigmas and stereotypes that do not reflect who I am or my experience.
Most of the concerns employers have with regards to veterans can be overcome by education and collaboration. Some veterans come home with PTSD or other psychological conditions, but many civilians struggle with similar issues, as nearly one in five Americans live with a mental illness. Companies looking to hire veterans should focus on what they bring to the table – a strong work ethic and valuable experiences from their time in the military – and less on outdated and misguided assumptions about who veterans are and how they will behave.
Just as in any venture, changing the employment process for veterans isn’t one-sided. Employers who want to incorporate veterans into their workforce should adjust their hiring practices, but veterans are also responsible for committing their time and effort to finding the position and company that are the best fit for their many transferable skills. As our society grows to become even more inclusive, employers can utilize these tips to ensure that the workplaces of the future are welcoming for everyone, veterans included.
Nicole Paquette is the Team Captain of Military Enrollment at MedCerts and a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard.