Veterans Want a Career, Not a "J-O-B"

Senior Airman Deric Johnson

Ronald Reagan once said, "Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But the Marines don't have that problem." This statement can be applied to every branch of service. When men and women join the service, they are looking to be a part of something bigger than themselves. When men and women transition from the service, they are looking for a position that gives them meaning and to ability to embrace that same sense of belonging. Simply put, a menial job without challenge... won't cut it. Veterans are seeking a position to make a difference and be a part of an organization that will help them grow. If employers want to increase their veteran populace, they need to know their audience.

Picture a disciplined, composed military member who has served stateside and/or overseas in a leadership role in a time of a war. Picture a member who has tackled any logistical nightmare placed in front of him or her, impacted lives across varying spectrums, traveled the world, exhausted his own humanitarian efforts, pushed the limits of nearly every physically demanding event… and still has this burning desire in life with this undefined definition to "succeed." When a veteran makes a transition, the question starts becoming, What's next? What do you do when you don't want to sit back and just relax… but want to continually make a difference? The answer is to seek out a company that helps you to feel like you are going to be a part of something where you can have influence and see direct results. The answer is finding a company that can relate and appreciates what you bring to the table.

Enter the organizations already doing a great job and known for luring military candidates to their teams. Amazon, JB Hunt and USAA are three examples.

"We actively seek leaders who can invent, think BIG, have a bias for action, and deliver results on behalf of our customers." CEO Jeff Besos is noted for making the claim that "These principles look very familiar to men and women who have served our country in the armed forces, and we find that their experience leading people is invaluable in our fast-paced work environment."

JB Hunt
"We work with transition offices and veteran affair groups to recruit and employtop military talent in a variety of rewarding and challenging civilian positions. We welcome your strong work ethic and reputation of integrity to our team."

"With one million service members set to transition to the civilian world between 2011 and 2016 – and unemployment already high among the youngest veterans – companies need to do more. And USAA is one of those companies. This is no act of altruism. Our experience is that veterans and military spouses make great employees: natural leaders, flexible and mission-oriented." – Joe Robles, USAA Chief Executive Officer

What each of these companies have in common is that they embrace the skillsets the veterans bring to the table, and encourage them to grow.

Take for instance the core values of the Air Force: Integrity First, Service before Self and Excellence in all we do. The Air Force emphasizes that "The Core Values are much more than minimum standards. They remind us what it takes to get the mission done. They inspire us to do our very best at all times. They are the common bond among all comrades in arms, and they are the glue that unifies the Force and ties us to the great warriors and public servants of the past." Comparing those values to what a JB Hunt stresses (strong work ethic and reputation of integrity), one can see they resonate well with exiting members. When touring a demolition company in San Francisco the other day in attempts to help hire veterans to the team, I was impressed that even a company that mainly was comprised of hard-working, hourly laborers, had core values such as Integrity, Excellence, Team work, Appreciation, Innovation and Perseverance. From a sales standpoint, consider: How much better would it sound for me to talk to a veteran candidate about an exciting company that has those values already in place?

USAA also specifically highlights an important note that members typically want to steer away from when pertaining to themselves: charity. The words "This is no act of altruism" shows the veteran that they aren't desired because the company feels badly, wants to help a worthy cause, thinks they are being humanitarian or has pity -- but the company wants them because they are "natural leaders" and "mission-oriented." A military member is rarely at the mercy of pity, but instead leading from the front, so even subliminally mentioning that a company is doing a veteran a favor….will likely steer them the opposite direction. So much of the company messaging is about creating an image. You can think along the same lines in using words such as "wounded warriors" as opposed to "disabled veterans." People tend to not want to be classified as a stereotype of a gentleman with pins in his ball cap in a wheelchair who relishes in his heroic past… but "warrior" has an entirely different connotation.

Another key takeaway is that military members are not looking for a space to rent on a job site, but for a company they can call home. TSgt Matt Loy, an Air Force Air Transport Craftsman that worked for me while I was stationed at McGuire AFB, is a prime example of the drive you see in active duty and veterans. "I joined because I wanted to learn a new skill, and to serve," says Matt. "Ten years later, I've realized the military has given me much more than that. When it's time for us to leave, we need a company that will recognize our leadership skills, adaptability to complete the mission, and 'never quit' work ethic to get the job done. We want a company that continues to give us our sense of purpose."

If you are an employer looking for a long term hire, then being vocal on your ability to provide that stability, coupled with challenge and growth opportunities in an environment that fosters strong core values, is the way to start advertising. If you are looking for someone who simply wants a "J-O-B"….find someone who wasn't drawn to a slogan such as "Be all that you can be."

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