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Veteran Hiring Myths…And Truths

Over the past nine years of helping thirteen thousand plus military veterans enter fantastic meaningful, lucrative post-Service project management careers in over one thousand companies, I have run into several widely-held, stubborn myths about us as a population.


And they’re not true.


And they’re detrimental to our hiring chances.


Because of that, I’ll present and dispel them here.


First, because veterans operate in a highly regimented, regulated, rigid environment, they only know how to follow orders.  Second, because we only know how to follow orders, we are not curious, critically thinking, tenacious problem solvers, and therefore we can’t be trained to contribute.  Third, because we’re veterans, we’ve all carried firearms, which we must have fired, at people, which means we all have PTS.  And notice, that while I am no clinician, I leave the “D” off of PTS so we’re talking accurately about a transient syndrome instead of a permanent disorder.  But that’s a different post…And fourth, as a population, we just don’t have enough “experience” to qualify for the job.


Here comes the stick of dynamite to blow these myths up…


Yes, we follow orders.  And give them.  But within parameters.  Some parameters are vague, like “achieve this objective by this time with these resources to affect this outcome”, and others are concrete, bounded by laws, regulations, and ethics.  And except for the legal ones specifically derived from the Uniformed Code of Military Justine (“UCMJ”), they’re the same as the ones used in the civilian work force.  This means that the decision-making applied to problem solving inherent in planning calls for, even demands, creativity, curiosity, resourcefulness, tenacity, and resiliency.  Which are adjectives rarely applied by civilians to veterans.  And this means that although we were “Department of Defense”, we all have significant amounts of experience managing things and leading people to solve complex problems in risk-laden bureaucratic organizations, just like Coca-Cola, Amazon, NVIDIA, or USAA.  Additionally, we go to highly technical schools and learn highly technical things that we apply as soon as we arrive at our first duty station and beyond, often with risk to life or limb in the balance.  That clearly takes aptitude to learn highly technical extremely fast.  Which means no sixteen-week long college course mapped to a often non-practical grading rubric here.  And finally, statistically, yes we all qualified on a firearm, many carried one, and a few did so in combat.  But is the PTS from what we did or saw or didn’t do or see, or coming home to a work force that is alienated from each other because they are buried in spread sheets, meetings, electronic devices and work remotely after we’ve experience a close, deep bonded with other “co-workers”, working with them, working out with them, living in close quarters with them, experiencing joy and trauma together, as one.  Wouldn’t you feel alienated too?  And as human beings wired to be social, when alienated and lacking information, we let our minds turn inward and fill in the blanks.  Both of which can be detrimental to self-esteem, which erodes confidence and contribution, which can lead to depression, which can lead to suicide ideation or worse.


So, the next time you see a resume from a military veteran, consider what you’re looking for them to do, to contribute, and pick out the items that support that capability.  And have a veteran in your organization look at it and help you if you must.  And then ask behavioral, situational based questions and teach the veteran candidate the STAR method of responding if they don’t know what it is.  It’s a couple minutes invested into an interview that may uncover your new hire.  That brings all of the benefits above to you.  With less baby-sitting and more productivity.