What Civilians Say About The Military Transition Conversation - Part 2 Of 3

I feel so bad for them, they’ve done so much and then it’s so hard to come home and be normal again.

Why are we even having this conversation? Why do we have to differentiate between veterans and other people? It’s like we’ve created a victim class. 

How is a veteran’s transition any different from when I switched careers? I had to start again at the bottom and work my way up too! Why should it be any different for a veteran?

These are just a few of the things I hear when I tell people that my company, Hire Served, exists to change the lives of servicemembers and their families by connecting them with meaningful jobs at small/medium-sized businesses who would love to hire them but don’t know how to connect with them. Since I respond to these so frequently, it occurs to me many others may be thinking it but not saying it. For brevity’s sake, I have divided these into three separate posts. To go back and read the first, click here. Now let's dive into the second.

Why are we even having this conversation? Why do we have to differentiate between veterans and other people? It’s like we’ve created a victim class. 

This is the second thing I hear frequently - Why is this even a conversation? This comes from well-meaning civilians who have a ton of respect for our veterans and seriously cannot understand the employment challenges they are facing in their transitions. It comes from a good place and tells me I’d love to send this person candidates because he/she sees the value vets bring to the workforce and to society. However, it also tells me a veteran may struggle to work for this person because he/she doesn’t see the gap that does exist between vets and civilians and may not work hard enough to create purpose and community for a vet in their workplace. 

The answer is simple: We have to have this conversation because vets spent the first part of their professional careers learning to speak a different language and when they transition, they don’t understand the language and culture of the civilian workforce. 

  • They don’t know what the workforce is looking for and they don’t know how to express it. 
  • They don’t know what kinds of jobs exist in the private sector, what ranks and roles indicate, the industries that exist and differences amongst them. 
  • They don’t know how corporate America functions and they have no experience writing a resume and articulating the value they can bring to an organization. 
  • They certainly have never quantified their contributions in terms of revenue results and "value creation". 

Finding a job is hard for those who have spent their entire careers in the private sector, people with experience in job hunting struggle with these things. How much more those who have never had any training or practice in this sector? We discuss it because, during their time of serving the country, vets weren’t exposed to the same systems those in private sector were exposed to since graduation and, therefore, learning that system well enough to become meaningfully employed upon transition comes with a sharp learning curve that results in a large culture gap

Since the culture gap exists because of the service vets have provided to our nation, I don’t believe vets are victimizing themselves when they ask for help navigating the job hunt. 

Instead, I applaud their bravery for standing up and saying, “We don’t understand this, we need help.” And I believe the proper response to their request for help is to provide it in any way we are capable. Yes, service-members and their spouses are responsible for their own success. Those who sit around waiting for someone else to walk up and hand them a job are wrong and misguided. However, as a broader audience of Americans whose freedom was secured by these individuals' sacrifices and who have an understanding of the civilian workforce, it would be equally wrong not to find a way to reach across the divide when we know it exists and are we capable of closing the gap. 

At Hire Served, we work with organizations who want to do just that - reach across the divide and employ veterans and military spouses. We provide pay-it-forward career coaching to the military community to help them take control of their own job search and begin to learn to speak civilian. We partner with Veterati to bring together military community members and citizens dedicated to their successful transition. These are the ways we are working to close the gap. What are some other ways civilians can reach across the divide?

*This post is part of a three part series. Read it and the other two parts on the Hire Served blog.

The Author:  Jean South is a Marine spouse, daughter of two Army veterans, and former FBI Special Agent. During her career she has had the honor of working alongside our nation’s warriors. As the President and CEO of the Hire Served, Jean gives companies a competitive advantage to compete for veteran talent by helping bridge the culture gap between military candidates and HR.

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