I’ve been off of active duty for about 15 years, but I still get 6-8 email or phone contacts per year from someone recruiting veterans. Being broadly experienced both professionally and militarily — I was in the Navy, Army, and the Army National Guard — I’m always interested to see what has brought someone to my (electronic) door. Some of them must certainly be scams or such, but others come from legitimate — I check — companies that do have jobs posted that I might be interested in. Regardless, the discussion is always the same, where the recruiter identifies all of the wonderful things they are looking for from my veteran experience — sometimes targeting very specific technical or leadership experience in my history — but things end when they find out that I’ve done a lot and have become far more qualified and experienced over the years. Sometimes, I think, I can almost hear their heads pop when I start filling in the rest of the professional picture.
It’s strange, really. The impression I get is generally that these recruiters are looking for people who got out of the military and haven’t done anything other than work as laborers or managers of a hotdog stands. Even when these conversations are are with people who tell me that they have looked at my LinkedIn profile, or who have a copy of my resume in front of them, I get the impression that it is beyond their ken that I might just have gone to college after the military and have done more than get some technical certifications over the last decade-and-a-half. Is that how blind people have become since 9/11, wherein we are in such a rush to hire veterans for the sake of hiring veterans that we’re only interested in those with nothing else but veteran status to work with?
Veteran status is, like all other traits, something else that is part of the whole person we are trying to hire, and its quality varies from person to person. Some are martinets, some are scruffy but efficient warriors, while still others barely got out ahead of a prison sentence. Whether or not someone is a veteran should only give you a point of reference to find out more, but should never really be viewed as the total a person does or can bring to the table — think about it as a piece of the puzzle, maybe even a corner piece, but it isn’t the whole picture.
I fully support hiring or even preferring veterans, but only to the extent that people are still qualified in all of the ways that matter. Veteran status is a good place to start looking for people with certain traits, and it is a great tiebreaker between substantially identical candidates, but it shouldn’t be an end in itself.
About the Author:
Dr. Philip D. Mann is an experienced trainer, speaker, and problem solver who gets things done. His primary expertise is employee engagement and the people side of how organizations grow and (resist) change. He also knows a thing or two about the government works, and those principles apply to all large, bureaucratic structures. If you need help getting things done, reach out to Dr. Mann here on LinkedIn or at www.we-hc.com.