Three Reasons Why Veterans Are A Valuable Addition To Your Workforce

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John M. O’Connor is a multi-year career coach, outplacement and career services leader based in North Carolina.


I joined the United States Army through my college’s ROTC program as an officer many years ago. Since that time, I have been able to serve many, many people in a career transition who served in the military.

What aligns veterans or all who have served in some way is a true sense of purpose and commitment to a cause. No military veteran I know got in the military to be famous, rich or become some kind of war hero. When you hire a veteran, you hire that mindset — that innocence and purity of purpose. When your company or organization goes through a transition, needs to handle a difficult or unexpected problem, or faces a crisis, a veteran should be your first choice of hire.

But even though “hire a vet” programs have been out there for many years and in many forms, many private employers still express concern when it comes to hiring veterans. This is what I have heard:

“I want to hire a vet, but given what they have gone through, I am concerned about the potential for post-traumatic stress.”

“Do you think they will fit into our culture? It’s probably more liberal than they are used to.”

“They probably don’t want to do some of the boring jobs we have here. I don’t think they will stay.”

In response to comments like these, I decided to start a conversation to learn about how and why employers feel the way they do about hiring a veteran. In each case, there genuinely was a desire to employ these individuals, but what remained was a fear of the unknown.

I explained as I always do that no matter who you hire, you should put the candidate through a vetting process to make sure they resonate with your mission and that they fit in with your culture and team. Nobody — and not even the veterans I know — want special treatment. They want fair treatment.

I argue that if after you vet the vet and they seem like they would be a great fit, you have someone who could provide immense value to you. Here are three reasons why:

1. They understand diversity and inclusion. If you hire a veteran, you are hiring someone who has not only worked with people of different backgrounds but has done so globally. They have successfully collaborated with individuals regardless of race, gender, nationality, religion, economic status or sexual orientation. They have even worked with those who have been under pressure mentally and physically. In the military, you don’t just work with people — you live with those people, are deployed with those people, and you must work with the whole person.

2. They’re technically savvy and adaptable. In times past, infantry or frontline fighters needed to know very little about changing technology or software. Today, everyone in the military must know how to adapt to technical trends, core mechanical issues and software. It’s a high-tech military and, therefore, it’s crucial to be able to learn quickly, adapt and use new technology and software regardless of grade, title or background.

Similarly, your organization needs people you can train, retrain and who can adapt to changes in the workplace. Veterans understand how business-critical those issues are right now for you. The military invests tens of thousands of dollars in almost every person and demands a continuing education mindset. That’s the mindset your company needs too.

3. They exhibit integrity-based, frontline leadership. You cannot last in the military without developing some kind of a leadership mindset with practical experience honed under pressure. Even at the lowest ranks in the military, you’re challenged to set safety standards and be responsible sometimes for the life, health and well-being of those around you. The military trains people to lead and inspire others through personal and professional example. In some cases, soldiers must accomplish missions that put them in personal danger. They must also navigate the feelings of grief, loss and pain directly.

In a professional setting, these are the individuals who can deal with difficulty and failure and continue to perform and lead others.

When you hire a veteran, you’re hiring someone who stands for more than just their own ambitions. They stand for what’s good about us and what’s good about this country. And they’ll stand for your organization too. Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

John M. O’Connor is a multi-year career coach, outplacement and career services leader based in North Carolina.