Have you ever received a resume from a job candidate with military experience, but weren’t sure whether they were the right fit for what you were looking for?
Because of Hollywood, much of the public has a one-dimensional perception of military members: Someone in camouflage trekking through exotic terrain, armed with a rifle and a grenade launcher, always handily facing down danger.
You know – someone like Rambo.
The truth is, military members acquire many diverse skills and characteristics that are applicable to the civilian world and make them top-notch employees. I know from personal experience – I spent four years in the Marine Corps before transitioning into information technology (IT) roles in various industries including Human Resources (HR) services.
Here are eight reasons why hiring military veterans may be one of the best personnel decisions you’ll make.
8 attributes that make hiring military veterans a valuable business proposition
1. Extensively trained in a specialty
Often, people correlate military training with physical or combat training – for example, learning how to repel off the side of a cliff, jump out of a plane, or how to survive on the battlefield.
But that’s not the whole picture.
Military personnel build an educational foundation through hundreds of training hours in the classroom. From learning about complex equipment to some of the world’s most advanced technology, they learn a variety of universal skills that translate well to civilian life. Many also develop a capacity to absorb a lot of information.
And, within the military there’s a counterpart to many types of civilian jobs. The U.S. military needs a variety of specialized roles filled within its ranks. That’s why, alongside their combat skills, service members learn and become proficient in a professional trade, known as a military occupational skill (MOS). These include:
- Human resources (HR)
- Legal services
And this is just to name a few. (I served in personnel administration doing office work and managing service record books.)
Don’t assume that a military veteran is “just a rifleman.” Instead, know that many military veterans carry a wealth of knowledge and experience in a specialized trade that may align with your needs.
2. Mental fortitude
Fortitude is another way of saying that many military veterans have grit.
Regardless of the military branch, each new service member completes bootcamp or basic training. The purpose of bootcamp is to push beyond one’s limits – both physical and mental. It’s about spurring a shift in mindset: I can achieve more than what I initially thought I could.
As a result, many military veterans bring this powerful and resilient mindset to the civilian workplace.
3. Ability to cope with stress
The military puts great demands on the mental, physical and moral strength of its members. This is true in times of peace and especially so during times of war.
As a result, many military veterans can:
- Maintain calm
- Think clearly and quickly in the moment
- Prioritize tasks
- Make sound, timely decisions
- Execute with minimal disruption
Working well under pressure – particularly in a crisis – is a valuable attribute to have within the lowest rungs of an organization all the way up to the boardroom.
4. Mission oriented – but adaptive to change
Many service members understand exactly how they’ll get from point A to point B in the specified time frame. They often appreciate:
- Setting goals
- Having a purpose
- Meeting deadlines
- Achieving desired results
However, they know that conditions can evolve quickly and they have to be able to respond to unexpected changes. Much military training emphasizes this skill, and it’s routinely put into practice in real-world situations.
In the military and civilian life alike, it’s inevitable that there will be obstacles, disruptions and unknowns. For example:
- Team members come and go
- Technology advances
- External conditions outside our control shift
Being able to adapt and deploy creative problem-solving techniques in a rapidly changing business climate – and world at large – are critical.
5. High emotional intelligence (EQ)
EQ is being able to read other people and assess their feelings and needs. When hiring, it’s a soft skill that rivals technical proficiency, education and certifications in importance – especially when hiring for leadership roles.
The military builds EQ in its members in the same way as team sports. The biggest difference is that rather than playing football or basketball for a season, the military requires its members to work within a team day in and day out, for years at a time.
Within this structure, there is an incredibly high level of familiarity and trust between teammates.
- They come to know each other well and can anticipate others’ actions before they do them.
- They look out for others’ welfare – especially in life-and-death situations.
- They offer recognition of others’ contributions and accomplishments.
- They motivate others.
- They communicate clearly and frequently.
- They’re team players in all aspects – and the team is more important than any single individual.
Having high-EQ employees contributes to a more harmonious workforce and a positive culture.
6. High relationship intelligence (RQ)
RQ takes the concept of EQ much further. This is about understanding who you are at your core and what your motivational value system is – and how your behavioral tendencies and strengths can build successful working relationships and help to meet others’ needs.
With its team-focused structure and the experiences it provides, the military forces its members to get to know themselves and their capabilities, as well as how they work with others, very quickly.
It forces everyone to focus on how to be more productive together.
Remember: Skillset is only part of the picture. A good hire needs to be able to interact well with co-workers, customers and other stakeholders. They also need to have the right attitude and respect for the organizational culture.
Military experience on a resume indicates that a job candidate may excel at this.
7. Strong leadership skills
The military has a clearly defined hierarchy and chain of command, which instills a respect for authority and humility in accepting orders.
In some cases, there are multiple reporting structures as opposed to a single direct supervisor. This helps military members learn to multitask and balance the needs and priorities of different managers.
At some point, every military member is given the opportunity to manage others. As they advance through the ranks, their responsibility for others expands.
As a result, military members become accustomed to both giving and taking orders at various turns. After all, it’s equally important to be able to follow as well as lead.
Given the complex, fluid and often high-pressure situations military members face, leaders are forced to become:
- Well rounded
- Able to quickly assess scenarios and needs
- Adept at reading others
- Comfortable with delegating tasks
And with the code of honor the military adheres to and the scrutiny they face, military leaders strive to set a good example for their subordinates and represent the qualities they seek to instill in others, such as:
If this all sounds similar to the process of advancing upward through a company hierarchy and vital for successful business operations, it’s because it is.
Certainly, leadership skills carry great weight in the civilian workplace. Here, it’s known that outstanding leaders not only steer a company’s success, but they can also have a huge impact on employees’ experience with a company. Good managers enable a positive culture along with less turnover and fewer liability issues.
Furthermore, military veterans can be effective trainers themselves by leveraging techniques they experienced in the military. For example, they tend to be talented at leading team-building activities that foster unity and trust, and in cross-training team members.
8. Exposure to diversity
The Marine Corps often says: We can be anywhere in the world within 24 hours. The reach and power of the U.S. military is, indeed, astonishing.
Over the course of their military careers, service members may deploy overseas for missions or they could be stationed at U.S. bases around the world. These members get the unique opportunity to become at least temporarily immersed into one or several foreign cultures.
There’s also an incredible amount of diversity within the U.S. military itself. Within teams, military members work alongside people from all walks of life – different races, religions, cultures and socioeconomic levels. Military members come from across the U.S. Some have even immigrated from other countries and are in the process of becoming American citizens.
As businesses globalize and diverse workforces increase in priority, it’s an advantage to have employees who have lived and worked abroad, or have a high comfort level working alongside those who may look, think and act differently.
Military veterans could be instrumental in achieving an accepting, non-discriminatory workplace.
Summing it all up
Forget what you think you know about the military: That its members are just trained to use weapons and accomplish daring physical feats.
So much of what the military teaches and instills in its members is highly applicable – and very much valuable – to the civilian workplace.
Many military veterans have a unique and sought-after blend of traits and skills:
- Handling stress
- Coping with change
- Leading effectively
- Being able to work well within teams
Therefore, military veterans have the potential to impact any business in a positive way.
The next time you have an open position, strongly consider hiring the military veterans within your pool of applicants.
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