I am often asked about the most common mistake made by Veterans looking for jobs, and I always give the same answer: underestimating the degree of change associated with leaving military service for civilian employment. Thinking of it as a change in duty station is way off base (no pun intended).
I use the phrase "controlled ambiguity" * to describe the way the military manages constant change - while the change is constant, the conditions remain stable in terms of roles, responsibilities, process, procedure, protocol. A change in duty station is, to be sure, a change, but it does not cause disruption in productivity because the military limits the degree of ambiguity associated with the change. This is admirable and often a strength Veterans bring to civilian organizations.
However, before Veterans can see their strengths blossom in the civilian workplace, they need to navigate the transition no one has really prepared them for.
Inevitably, the question about common Veteran mistakes is followed by a question about common mistakes made by employers seeking to hire them. My answer is the same: underestimating the degree of change associated with leaving military service for civilian employment. Veterans enter the job market differently than most civilians do; with a different context, a different set of assumptions and expectations. The way they source opportunities and identify employers is different, their resumes look different, their interview style can be very different. Recruiters around the country recognize this but, on the whole, push against the differences rather than adapting to them because they can't afford the extra time it takes to master this segment of candidates.*
Effectively and aggressively pursuing the wealth of talent resident in Veterans requires a new way of recruiting.**
Ideally, the military transition program would better prepare service members for the cultural differences they will face in the civilian job market and workplace. Ideally, leaders of talent acquisition and recruiting would skill up their teams to compete for military talent. I see progress and believe we will get there, but Veterans need jobs NOW, and employers say they want to hire them.
So, the call to action is this: respect the degree of difference and flex to it rather than against it. Ask yourself: "how much energy do I expend wishing/hoping/forcing things to go as I expect them to?" (As an executive coach, this is a question I ask clients on just about ANY topic...think about it!) How much of this energy could be freed up to operate more effectively? It's a personal question and may take some reflection. I invite you to undertake the inquiry, as it will surely serve your goals in just about any area of life.
Please let me know how I can help.
* Source: "Field Tested: Recruiting, Managing & Retaining Veterans," by Emily King (AMACOM 2012)
** The Certified Veteran Recruiter (CVR) Program is a solution many organizations are implementing with success. http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=4hncpkfab&oeidk=a07...