Hiring managers and recruiters are intrigued and excited about the idea of hiring former military service members. More and more, they recognize that a veteran job candidate brings qualities of leadership, integrity, commitment, problem-solving, adaptability, and much more!
By the year 2023, reports estimate we will see 3.5 million veterans in the civilian workforce in this country. On the surface, that should indicate a great opportunity for employers who seek to hire employees who bring exceptional value to the company. Instead, many employers are hesitant or overwhelmed at the prospect of hiring veterans because they don't know how to navigate and overcome perceptions, myths, and the divide between the military and civilian cultures.
Also read: The 6 craziest military myths
In a recent article published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), I spoke to employers about realities of common misperceptions. You, the job candidate, can help employers clarify some of those myths by having data and insights to dispel these misconceptoins. For instance:
1. Myth: Only men serve in the military
How many times has a female veteran heard a civilian remark, "You're a veteran? You don't look like a veteran!"? There are misperceptions around the number of men and women who put on the uniform. The Pew Research Center reports that female veterans are less likely to have served in combat (30 percent of women compared to 57 percent of men). In peacetime and wartime, there are a great number of women who serve, and that number will grow as new military occupations are opened up to female service members.
Women assigned to Malmstrom Air Force Base. (USAF by Beau Wade)
2. Myth: All veterans have PTSD
You, as a veteran, have surely encountered the perception that veterans must have some form of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). After all, how could anyone experience what you did in the military without coming back "different" in some way? Perceptions that veterans bring PTSD issues with them into their civilian careers lead many employers to question whether these job candidates are then "unstable" and "unreliable." Here are some facts:
• 8 percent of all Americans suffer from PTSD (approximately 24 million people), and the number of military veterans with PTSD is relatively low when compared to the total number of those who have served. "According to the VA, experts estimate that up to 20 percent of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans, up to 10 percent of Gulf War veterans, and up to 30 percent of Vietnam War veterans have experienced PTSD," reports PTSD United.
• Brainline.org reports that PTSD can occur after a person has been through a traumatic event, including natural disasters, car crashes, sexual or physical assault, terrorist attack, or combat during wartime.
• An estimated 1 out of 10 women will get PTSD at some time in their lives. Women are about twice as likely as men to develop PTSD. (Sidran.org)
3. Myth: Every veteran saw combat
As you know, there are over 7,000 military occupational codes, indicating different jobs in service. Not all of those jobs are in-theater. The Department of Defense shows that less than 20 percent of service members serve in frontline combat roles. Perhaps you worked as a cook, radio operator, pilot, tower equipment installer, logisticians, procurement clerk, medic, personnel manager, or mechanic during your military career? Help employers see that while all military jobs focus on the mission, they are not all combat jobs.
4. Myth: Skills gained in the military are non-transferable
Employers are often motivated to hire veterans for their qualities of teamwork, work ethics and values, resiliency, focus on mission, and accomplishment. These characteristics make veterans great candidates for matching a company's core values and culture. What sometimes gets overlooked is that veteran job candidates also bring tremendous hard skills that are transferrable to a civilian employer. Veterans bring a documented work history, security clearance, technical and subject matter expertise, and specialized training which can be quickly applied to industries such as healthcare, aviation, finance, logistics, administration, and others.
I advise employers who seek to hire military veterans but are unfamiliar with the military experience, work history, or skills to listen, learn, and engage others in understanding the benefits (and realities) of hiring and growing veteran talent. As you interview, discuss, and grow your civilian career, you can serve those coming up behind you by helping employers overcome some of these same misperceptions and myths.