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Imagine one day mattering so much to those around you that their lives literally depend on you doing what you know how to do extremely well so that all of you come home from overseas safely. Because you’re in an environment where the loss of limb or life lurks around every action. And now imagine that on the very next day, you don’t matter at all! Few know your name, even less know your experience, and since they don’t, they don’t understand how you can contribute to them, to their well-being, and to the well-being of the organizations they work for and the customers those organizations serve. That realization, especially when prolonged, can cause a lot of “confusion”, “stress”, “pain”, “fear”, alienation, depression, and even potentially suicide ideation. The words in quotations are taken from the survey answers of three thousand-plus contemporary military veterans. Heart-breaking. This post serves to inform this situation and provide hope. And I know it works. Because it has for the six thousand-plus veterans I’ve shared it with in the past. They’re all now making $85,000+ in the civilian workforce doing work that matters.
What does mattering mean? Global consulting firm McKinsey and Company has been conducting research on the topic of how employees find meaning in their work, and it is distributed across five categories.[i] This vein of research defines “meaning” as employees experience a “feeling that what’s happening really matters, that what’s being done has not been done before, or that it will make a difference to others”.[ii] This “difference to others” is assessed by the employee as “how does my work help me and my career? How does it help my team? How does it help my organization? How does my work help my organization’s customers? And, finally, “how does my work matter their community or society”. This is explicitly understood by those wearing uniforms while wearing the uniform.
How to matter. The research lays out tactics management can use to help their employee find meaning in their work, which increases productivity, energy, and self-confidence, because focusing only on organizational benefits omits the other four parts of the story. They all basically focus on helping employees identify their contributions and connect them to these categories, presenting a full picture that creates gravity through meaning. Therefore, veterans that identify what they can do and how their experience applies to their prospective employers, employers’ employees, the employer’s customers, and the employer’s contributions to society can find a new replacement of meaning, of mattering to others. The benefits of feeling like one matters are increased energy, productivity, and self-confidence, which can increase pride and self-esteem, which can reduce depression and ultimately suicide ideation.
Many veterans lose their sense of purpose and identity after leaving uniformed services. However, this need to matter is not unique to veteran employees, research shows it’s important to all employees! As Sebastian Junger puts it in his book Tribe, “humans don’t mind hardship [i.e., work], in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary”.[iii] That’s why Vets2PM focuses on providing professional development and credential training in careers where one’s work matters to themselves, their teams, their organizations, their organizations’ customers, and society; project, operations, HR, and cybersecurity management. Check out https://vets2pm.com today for free military-to-civilian career transition tools.