During the period of time when I was preparing to exit the military and re-enter the civilian workforce, I read countless articles on what to expect while entering the workforce. Resumes tips, tricks on how to put a strong spin on military skills, so forth and so on. Unfortunately, I had a sinking feeling that potential employers weren’t reading similar articles about what to expect from job candidates that have a previous background in the military.
The majority of civilians, both employers and coworkers alike, have had very little exposure to the military. Most of what they have seen is usually based on television. This is no surprise as less than 1% of the US population serves in the military – about 1.5 million of out 300 million*.
The fact is, ex-military have quite a lot of skills, training and abilities to bring to the table – many of which aren’t found as easily in civilian populations. Here is a list of just a few of the employer benefits of hiring veterans and ex-military.
This is usually the first concept that most anyone thinks of when they think of the military. And, there is more to discipline than just the stereotypical yelling that most people think about. Military personnel are trained to have mental discipline in the form of meeting deadlines, making hard choices, and pushing their limits as far as they will go. This also applies to physical discipline, such as being in peak physical fitness, representing the military uniform in an appropriate light and, again, pushing their physical limits as far as they will go. Ex-military personnel are used to working under strict policies and accomplishing tasks in conditions that are often less than optimal.
The majority of the military is made up of enlisted military. These are people that entered the military after graduating high school and started in specialty jobs, such as equipment maintenance, logistics, or even combat functions. These folks, generally, are entering into the military at the age of 18. This could also mean they end up in a warzone at the same age. For most college age people, they’re in their first year of college and might still be struggling with balancing homework with partying at the same time.
The military places individuals into positions very early on that require them to accept large amounts of responsibility, ranging anywhere from complex weapons systems to maintaining millions of dollars in government equipment. Officers (those entering the military after college) are almost always immediately put into leadership positions in charge of dozens of soldiers. Personal responsibility is a fundamental part of military service that soldiers have engrained in to them. They have a strong sense of duty.
Being able to withstand large amounts of stress is something the military spends an extraordinary amount of time and money training soldiers how to do. The stress of military life is something that requires a multi-pronged approach to ensure that soldiers remain safe, healthy, and most importantly, combat effective. Ex-military entering the civilian workforce will be somewhat shocked to see how drastically their work environment will change. Soldiers rarely shy away from early mornings or even long days. Working long days and putting in work hours when needed is something ex-military are used to. Mission accomplishment (or for civilians, completing business goals) is something that military learn to put above anything else, including their own lives. So supervisors shouldn’t have to worry about ex-military when it comes to the department needing to put in extra hours.
The saying “if you’re on time, you’re late” is a motto I have no idea how many times I’ve heard during my time in the military. However, now I understand it better. In the military, everything operates around time tables. Daily duties, short- and long-term planning, everything operates on a schedule. This is why workers with a military background will usually be the first to a meeting, sometimes unusually early. Timeliness is not always about being on time, but sometimes is to show respect. In the military, it’s considered very disrespectful to arrive late to a meeting being held by a superior officer. It was shocking for me to see, after I’d left the military, workers entering a meeting while their company president was speaking. Even more shocking was when vendors of products or services that my company was maybe going to buy were late. For some reason, these sales people were rarely early. Ex-military understand the importance of timeliness and scheduling.
Ex-military leave the service with an understanding that there will be times when they will be thrust into leadership, perhaps unexpectedly. For this reason, a concept known as “commander’s guidance” is used and passed down to all soldiers so they understand what to do in the absence of higher guidance. Commander’s guidance is very similar to a company’s mission, only it is generated from the senior officer and operates as a philosophy and an end result for subordinates to reflect on. Should, for any reason, a person be faced with ambiguity in decision making as it applies to mission accomplishment, they will already understand what their superior wants from the overall unit. This translates easily into a business environment as supervisors aren’t always present for work, either through sickness, vacation, etc. Whereas many people might be hesitant to make a decision and be more likely to put it off for a day, ex-military have already been trained and have experience in how to deal with similar situations.
Overall, individuals leaving the military are experienced in handling deadlines, operating under stressful conditions, and doing whatever it takes to accomplish the task put before them. Workers that have military experience make strong, trustworthy, dependable workers. But, if this isn’t enough to convince some HR professionals of the benefits of hiring ex-military, I might also want to mention that under certain circumstances (and thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009), organizations may be eligible to additional tax breaks for hiring veterans*.
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