Let me start by saying our country has made great strides lately on the veteran hiring front. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for December 2014, veteran unemployment was at 4.7% slightly up from November. The highest unemployment veteran rate for 2014 was among first-termers in the 18-24 year range with their average unemployment rate being at 16.2%, so there is still much work to do.
Statistics aside, veterans are still plagued with many misconceptions that hinder the hiring process. Here are some of the myths that are impacting the overall veteran unemployment rate.
Veterans want jobs.
Veterans generally do not want “jobs”, they want careers. Former President 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.” Our military members have dedicated themselves to the profession of arms. As they transition from military service, they are looking for meaningful work and a minimum wage low skilled job is not going to cut it. Veterans want to make a difference in the world and will stay with an organization that will give them the opportunity to learn and grow.
Veterans are uneducated.
Today’s Armed Forces are the most educated and technologically advanced military the world has ever seen. The days of enlisting criminals or dropouts are long gone.
The Department of Defense has set strict quality caps on who can serve in the military which has led to a 99% high school graduation rate, far exceeding that of the general population. Furthermore, veterans are 70% more likely to complete a college degree than their peers.
Veterans are not free thinkers, they just follow orders.
Some aspects of military life are well regulated, such as how long one’s hair can be, and they do occasionally march in straight lines, but the fact is, military members are trained to think on their feet and can operate effectively in the most chaotic of situations. Additionally, our Armed Forces work around the world with a social and cultural understanding of their environment that most can only imagine.
Veterans only know how to yell at people to get things done.
Forget what you learned from Hollywood. Yes, military leaders have a very important and dangerous job to do with life or death consequences, but the fact is, military leaders learn and master the art of transformational leadership.
Transformational leadership motivates the team to achieve a common goal by developing subordinates, showing genuine concern for the team, challenging people to achieve past expectations, and taking ownership for one’s actions. This is done through teaching, coaching, mentoring, and counseling, not regular yelling. Today’ military leaders lead through motivation, not fear and intimidation.
Veterans do not have applicable civilian skills.
First, less than 20% of military specialties are considered direct combat roles such as the infantry, armor, or artillery. The other 80% are in fields that have a direct correlation to the civilian job market such as medical, finance, food service, human resources, mechanical maintenance, etc. The focus here should be less on what a veteran’s job in the military was, but more on the intangibles such as team-work, loyalty, leadership, and great work-ethic. A company can train skills, but you can’t train dedication.
All veterans have Post Traumatic Stress.
Let’s put this in perspective and put all the hype aside. According to the National Institutes of Health, 26% of Americans over the age of 18, about 1 in 4, have some form of mental disorder. So, if your company has 100 employees and none of them were veterans, 25 will have some form of mental illness to include possible PTS.
PTS is an affliction that not only affects veterans, but could impact anyone who faced a traumatic life event such as an auto accident or becoming a victim of a crime. Additionally, it is estimated that only 20% of veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan have symptoms of PTS.
Veterans are poor and joined the military because it was their only option.
Believe it or not, the military sits firmly in the middle-class of America. The percentage of military personnel recruited from areas with the lowest of incomes is only about 7% of total enlistments. The highest percentage of military enlistments come from median household incomes nationwide.
I should not hire current members of the Guard and Reserve, they are just going to deploy.
A veteran who continues to serve their country in the Guard or Reserve should not be viewed as a liability. Yes, the possibility of a deployment is there. Yes, they are required to serve a minimum of one weekend a month and two weeks out of the year, but the knowledge, skills, and abilities that individual will bring to your organization are immeasurable. Hiring current National Guard and Reserve members is not only a good practice it is the law!
The best way to “support our troops” is to ensure they have gainful employment after their dedicated term of service. It’s time we all look past the hype, myths, and misconceptions and make hiring veterans and top priority. Let Forward March show you how to get the most out of military talent with our comprehensive HR training program and military talent pipeline services.
~ Article written by Jason Caswell, Forward March Inc – Director of Training and Talent Pipeline Services