There are millions of stories in the world of work. But this time, it’s personal. For me, #TChat hit close to home yesterday, when discussing issues and opportunities associated with military veteran employment. Therefore, rather than recapping the event in detail, I’d like to illustrate some key points through one soldier’s story. …
(To see highlights from the #TChat stream, watch the slideshow at the end of this post.)
One Veteran’s Dilemma
A close friend is one of the 2.4 million Americans who have volunteered to serve in the War on Terror. As a “civilian soldier” deployed as an embedded trainer by the Army National Guard, he left behind his full-time job and his comfortable family life in suburban Chicago. Since returning from Afghanistan almost 5 years ago, he has struggled to re-enter the workforce, as so many in uniform must do in these challenging economic times.
It shouldn’t have to be that way. This soldier’s credentials are impressive:
- Several decades of business experience — including 14 years as a technical sales specialist at one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies
- An honors degree in communications from one of our nation’s most prestigious universities
- Meritorious service in three branches of the armed forces
So why was it so difficult for him to find a good employment fit when he returned?
This thoughtful soldier would say, “It’s complicated.” Partially, it’s because businesses seem reluctant to take a chance on someone who could be recalled to active duty at any time. It’s also partially because some decision-makers seem intimidated by an impressive military profile. And, partially, it’s because his years of technical sales experience seem to over-qualify him for positions he would gladly pursue. (Ironically, as he has reminded me, he willingly traveled to a remote destination halfway around the world to perform tasks that were dirty, dangerous and sometimes mind-numbingly mundane, all in service of a higher mission.)
It seems ridiculous that business weren’t finding him attractive. It is even more ridiculous to learn that he was passed over not once, but twice, for a “troops-to-teachers” government initiative. Why? Apparently, the program didn’t feel that inner-city teens could learn English from a man who had trained poor Afghans to protect remote border villages from Taliban invasions, and had fostered productive relationships with wary Afghan tribal elders.
What’s happening here? It seems there are other factors to consider. It may not be obvious, but if we want to crack the employment code for returning veterans, it deserves a closer look.
Hiring Vets: More Than a Few Good Men (& Women)
Here’s my theory: If this soldier’s story is any indicator, we should recognize that this has been a very different kind of war — and its unique character fundamentally shifts the perceptions of those who serve.
Many missions include a strong humanitarian component. Objectives have centered on winning hearts and minds, while equipping Afghans to protect and sustain themselves through improvements in infrastructure, governance, agriculture, education and commerce.
Recent veterans have had a life-and-death hand in the future of the Afghan people. Regardless of their rank, they have contributed in a meaningful way, typically persevering in desperate and desolate conditions.
After such intense involvement in a mission, it’s a tremendous shock to return home to the U.S. and carry on as usual, without a strong sense of purpose. Perhaps that’s one reason why so many veterans sign up for subsequent tours of duty. Despite the clear-and-present need for an income stream, could it be that many vets aren’t simply searching for a job, but instead are seeking meaningful work?
With all the strengths that veterans bring to the table, perhaps some re-framing could lead both sides of the equation to a better sense of fit. Actually, come to think of it, couldn’t most of us benefit by re-framing our work lives as missions?
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NOTE: Many #TChat participants offered constructive ideas to improve the re-entry, recruiting and onboarding experience for veterans. For highlights and links to helpful resources, scroll to the end of this post and check out the Storify slideshow there.
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Highlights & What’s Ahead on #TChat
SPECIAL THANKS to this week’s guest moderator, Brenden “Bo” Wright (@BrendenMWright), director of information technology recruiting at Laureate Education. He’s also a Marine veteran who served as a nuclear, biological and chemical defense specialist. Brenden’s expertise in talent acquisition strategy and as a former member of the military brought tremendous depth and dimension to this week’s discussion. Did you miss the #TChat preview? Go here.
NOTE: If you’re a blogger and this #TChat session inspired you to write about veteran employment issues, we’re happy to share your thoughts. Just post a link on Twitter (at #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll add it to our archives. There are many voices in the #TChat community, with many ideas worth sharing. Let’s capture as many of them as possible. And we hope you’ll join us next Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 7-8pm ET (6-7pm CT, 5-6pm MT, 4-5pm PT, or wherever you are) for another #TChat, when we’ll be exploring issues related to government policy and human resources. Look for the preview early next week via @TalentCulture and #TChat. Enjoy your weekend!
Image Credit: Quad-City Times
#TChat INSIGHTS Slide Show: Veterans & Employment
by Sean Charles (@SocialMediaSean)
#TChat INSIGHTS: Employing Our Veterans
Storified by TalentCulture · Thu, Nov 08 2012 07:24:35
ary service. Burden shouldnt be #vet alone. #TChatMeghan M. Biro
ar command and control. #tchatMichael Clark
Does long-term loyalty help or hinder the career of a veteran in today’s workplace? #tchatBrenden Bo Wright
elopment. That is a senior leadership decision. #tchatJoey V. Price