"Thank you for your service."
Exactly what percentage of the veteran experience is universal is undoubtedly up for debate, but one experience common to nearly every veteran I know is hearing the phrase above. Not just hearing it, but hearing it and not knowing exactly how to respond.
My brothers and sisters in arms joined the military for a variety of reasons: a love of country, a call to service, a desire for a better life, or to see the world. One reason that doesn't come up is an appetite for appreciation or recognition. And whether you spend one tour or an entire career on active duty, your military service isn't going to train you to seek the spotlight. The fundamental truth of the military, from training to warfighting, is that you succeed or fail as a team. It's a concept that's ingrained in us from day one of basic training. It's instrumental to our status as the greatest fighting force in the world.
It's also, I now know, one of the biggest challenges that veterans face when they look for civilian employment. Potential employers want to hear about a candidate's personal accomplishments and triumphs in an interview - but veterans are taught to view their successes as a result of team rather than individual efforts. Learning to talk about how their personal decisions and actions contributed to a larger team success is one of the toughest parts of transition for many veterans.
The good news, though, is that hiring managers have started to realize just how much of an asset a veteran can be to their team. A new study released last week by Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) shows that companies now view veterans as a top three recruiting priority - and 90% of them say that hiring veterans is important to their business.
It's no surprise to hear that veterans are a top target for recruiting managers. As I worked my way through training to earn the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, I learned a lot about about the Marine Corps core values of honor, courage, and commitment. These values, which all Marines are expected to uphold on- and off-duty, translate seamlessly into the same core values that employers are seeking in their job candidates: integrity, loyalty, the ability to work well under pressure. And that same study showed that hiring managers do associate veterans with those desirable positive qualities.
So, if veterans make great job candidates and hiring managers appreciate those veterans' value, why are we still talking about veteran unemployment?
It turns out that while military service makes for great candidates, it does not prepare veterans to communicate with civilian employers about that service. Veterans' reluctance to showcase their personal successes presents one challenge; a lack of practice talking about their military service in terms civilians can understand compounds the problem.
But there is help, and hope, for these veterans. One popular interview technique that can help veterans highlight their accomplishments is the STAR method. The basic concept is, when asked about how a candidate would tackle a particular on-the-job challenge, to describe a past situation, explain the task or objective, then lay out the actions taken and the results achieved. It's a great way to draw attention to the role individual successes play in a team victory, and it works well in a variety of interview situations.
When I transitioned, tackling the "language barrier" between the military and civilian employers was one of my toughest personal challenges. I think this is true for a lot of other transitioning service members who are leaving their first full-time job with little idea of how the civilian job market compares. It's why I felt so strongly about working with Toyota and HOH to create a resume builder for veterans that helps make that translation easier. The tool we created, Resume Engine, helps users figure out how the skills they developed in a given MOS or rate equate to skills needed in civilian positions - and it does it using terms with which employers are familiar. Even better? It's completely free to use.
Overall, good news for veterans: you have attributes and skills that employers need and are looking for in a candidate. The challenge now is navigating the communication barrier between the military and civilian life, but thanks to the wealth of information available, it's getting easier every day. Now is the time to make the first step toward a meaningful civilian career and seek out these resources.