I had the privilege yesterday of attending a VIP breakfast on the Intrepid, kicking off a veterans hiring event. The hiring event was mounted by a great organization called Hire Disability Services (www.hireds.com) and its division Be a Hero Hire a Hero. There were many distinguished speakers, many of whom brought great passion and emotion to the topic of employment for veterans.
Among those speakers was someone I’m a fan of, Col Ortiz (ret), of the Department of Labor’s Veteran Employment and Training Service (VETS). Mr. Ortiz issued a challenge to the audience of corporate CEOs and representatives, to counter a perception of veterans as having limited marketable skills. “No skills?” Ortiz began. “Do you really think that 18 year olds entering the military know how to drive a tank? Fix an aircraft? Work on a multi-million dollar radar system? Forget about what the resume says. Ask! Find out who these people are. They just might surprise you.”
The military has been described to me by veterans as an organization in which every day is spent training for things that may never happen. Further, it is an organization that moves its personnel around from job to job and provides requisite training and/or guidelines as appropriate. My point is: a veteran may not have a perfect skill match for the job opening, but he or she is eminently trainable – and a quick study at that – and skilled at putting training to work in real time. And under stressful conditions. And in a team environment. And with a focus on results before self.
Just to really blow your mind, consider this. A veteran is a man or woman who volunteered to die for you and me, without even knowing us. And then stepped up to go places and do things we can only imagine in service to that promise.
So, the moral of this post (and my readers know I don’t usually take this preachy tone) is, for employers, to think broadly about essential skills versus nice-to-haves, to assume much can be learned quickly rather than assuming the opposite. Let’s all continue to chip away at the mental frameworks that keep us from making a positive difference for veterans.