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Understanding Veterans: A Key To Solving The Job Crisis

March 13, 2013 7 minute Read by Major General Lee Baxter

Many important efforts are ongoing nationally and at the state and local levels to create programs which will reduce the astonishingly high rates of unemployment for Post Gulf-War era veterans.  Within the Military Service Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute, a pilot “Circles of Excellence” program is exploring courses of action designed to put veterans on the path to professional successes. The program is being led by former Joint Chief of Staff Chairman, General Peter Pace and leading nonprofit  organizations supporting veterans: Hiring our Heroes, American Corporate Partners, and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, a national leader in support of veterans and their families within academia. 

But at the end of the day when employers, be they small or large businesses, make the final decision on which of many applicants to select, they should clearly understand the kind of person they will get if they decide to hire a vet.  Here are ten good reasons to do just that, and make a great decision.

1. Veterans Can Work Under Pressure.  When we define pressure as ability to meet deadlines or produce results measured by objectives, that’s one thing.  Pressure, for the veteran, is operating calmly and coolly with mortar rounds exploding all around, and with severely wounded comrades bleeding out at your feet while a tourniquet is applied.  Yes, veterans can work under pressure.  Real pressure.

2.  Veterans are dedicated and possess an astonishing work ethic.  In peacetime, let alone under combat conditions, service members rise early (often 4:30 AM), participate in rigorous, regimented physical training, report to work on time, and, it seems, never work just eight hours.  Veterans, who have risked their lives to ensure our freedom and way of life, have unsurpassed dedication.  Work ethic? It simply comes with the territory.

3.  Veterans are trainable.  Veterans are one class of potential employee who has already been trained.  Basic training, skills training, basic leadership training, advanced leadership training, and on-the-job training.  One thing our military does with perfection is train.  And that veteran will have exactly what it takes to meet the training objective.  Completely trainable. 

4.  Veterans know who the Boss is.  Acceptance of authority begins at day one for members of the military.  But it’s not the blind acceptance and capitulation served up by Drill Sergeants in years gone by.  It is an acceptance of role and responsibility, an acknowledgement of leadership, and a sense of the contribution by more senior officials.  Now what employer would not want that?

5.  Veterans know they must produce to advance, and they seek that challenge.  Military members are not promoted or advanced through time in service, because of patronage, or nepotism.  They do it the old-fashioned way; they earn it.  Advancement beyond the lowest enlisted rank requires completion of training courses to include leadership training, testing, appearance before a Board of more senior personnel, and being competitive with their peers, often on a national level.  So promotions aren’t expected - men and women in uniform work for everything they get.

6.  Veterans have working experience.  Veterans know how to work.  They come in on time, do not expect lengthy breaks, are drug free, loyal, and great teammates.  In the military, that’s known as “working experience.”  Employers can’t train those behaviors easily.  They are part and parcel of the fabric of the lives of our military members. It is how they are raised in the workplace.

7.  Veterans are self-confident.  Veterans look good, can articulate their views, and carry on adult conversations.  They have accepted far greater responsibilities at a far younger age than their peers without a military background.  They are proud, a bit intense, and very, very quick on their feet.  They exude a confidence that is infectious for other employees and more often than not, are very capable leaders.  Self-confidence yields production in the work place.

8.  Veterans are socially mature.  Having experienced the rigors of military service, often in combat operations, our service members are forced to mature early if they are to survive, let alone succeed.  Social maturity embraces physical, mental, spiritual and emotional wellness.  It’s the ability to understand and believe in members of teams, to listen and understand the views of others, and to be a good friend.  A great addition to any work setting, to be sure.

9.  Veterans are adaptable.  Typically, veterans have been trained for a specific skill set.  Intensely trained.  Yet with that skill set comes far-ranging additional duties and responsibilities.  Radar repairmen can also be security guards, team leaders, maintenance supervisors, mentors, and counselors.  They can do that and more, and have done so throughout their period of service.  Adaptability is second nature; so if an employee who can multi-task, fill in or work with divergent personalities is desired, it comes with the veteran.

10. Veterans have served our country. They have earned and deserve our consideration for employment.  A powerful concept.  No veteran expects employment because she is a veteran.  But the resume veterans carry based on life style, values and past performance, gives them a sure advantage in the interview room; an advantage no employer should deny.  All veterans need is a chance.  They will earn the job and your trust.

So as our nation’s businesses create additions to their work forces, veterans of our military service offer so much more than the man or woman on the street.  They have crammed much into their short lives, have accepted great risks while in grave danger, and are responsible and mature as a result of their selfless personal choice to serve the Nation.  Just give them the chance.

Major General Lee Baxter, USA (Retired) is a Senior Military Advisor to The George W. Bush Institute.