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Celebrate Veterans All Year Long

November 8, 2017 by Kelli Ellenburg, SHRM-CP, PHR, CIR

Although my father is a veteran, I never lived the military brat life. By the time I was born, he was fully immersed in corporate America, having served in the Air Force prior to starting a family. I still feel drawn to finding ways to honor and support military personnel, especially given my upbringing in a “Navy town.” There is no lack of opportunity – the hardest part is choosing one of many outstanding organizations to throw my support behind!

For the past several years, I’ve had the privilege of working with military transition expert Patricia Piazza of Onward to Opportunity (O2O), a groundbreaking career preparation readiness program led by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, through a public-private partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and funded in part by the Schultz Family Foundation and J.P. Morgan Chase.

I recently participated in a Q&A panel alongside several other human resources and recruiting professionals where I answered questions about the hiring process from service members and military spouses transitioning to civilian life. The questions were tough! This is just a sampling of the insights I gleaned.

We come from a highly structured environment, however, we also know how to think and work creatively.

When was the last time your Network Engineer had to set up cabling and electrical lines in a desert? Service members often find themselves in non-traditional work settings, bringing new meaning to the word “agile.” The resourcefulness required to execute in such demanding conditions may bring new and innovative ideas to your team.

As “trailing spouses,” we may move around frequently, however, we bring a highly desirable skill set as a result.

What’s the benefit to the employer in hiring a staff member who may leave within two to three years due to a transfer? Military spouses are typically experts at being flexible, dealing with highly stressful situations, and accustomed to a culturally diverse community. These and other desirable traits, such as resiliency and organization, are second-nature. Laura Demspey, a director of the Military Spouse Employment Program for the Hiring Our Heroes Program at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as well as a military spouse, wrote in a recent article that she passed four state bar exams in the first six years of marriage to sustain her career as an attorney. That’s quite an accomplishment!

At the same time, according to a news release of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.2 years in January 2016, down from 4.6 years in January 2014. Military spouses are not that far off from their non-military counterparts given that the median tour of duty is about three years.

We know stereotypes about military life exist, however, we want to learn, grow, and be a “fit” for your company culture.

Rather than assume military personnel are set in their ways, be open-minded to nurturing a transitioning service member’s desire to apply acquired skills in a new environment. Through an effective on-boarding program and shared vision, a teachable employee will catch on quickly to what makes your company tick. They’ll also add to the diversity of thought from a lifetime of exposure to a variety of locations and cultures. If you’re a veteran, remember what it felt like to transition to a civilian job and “pay it forward” by being a sounding board and mentor.

As you celebrate Veteran’s Day, consider how the frequency and duration of the observance can be extended throughout the year. Seek out transitioning veterans as part of your recruiting strategy by connecting with national organizations such as O2O, participate in veteran career fairs, or simply share success stories in hiring veterans and military spouses.

In the meantime, please join us at HireBetter in honoring Veterans on this national holiday. We salute you!

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