I’ve never had the honor of serving. I make that clear every time I meet with members of the military community. Whether it’s at hiring events, job fairs, or events like the Veteran Jobs Mission (aka VJM), I want that to be known - I couldn’t take credit or gratitude for something I didn’t earn. I feel it’s important to make that distinction because I truly believe it’s an honor to serve your country, in any capacity, but especially in the military capacity. Regardless of why someone has enlisted, or why they’re deployed, they put themselves in potential danger in ways most of us will never experience. The recent 75th anniversary of D-Day made me reflect on more ways I can help and give back to the veteran community.
There are 2 areas that I think are most important to focus on - transitioning veterans and the sometimes-unsung heroes, military spouses. While it’s easy to see someone in a military dress uniform, fatigues or training gear, what is often overlooked are the military spouses who are usually tasked with running a household completely by themselves while their loved one is away with the potential of not coming home. More on that population later.
At my current client, when it was determined that a push was going to be made to formally establish a Veterans Recruitment Program - I wanted in. I didn’t care in what capacity, but it was something that I was instantly attracted to. What I didn’t realize was all the leg work required to create a Veterans Recruitment Program.
One of the key pieces to the puzzle is management support. And I don’t mean your direct manager’s support. I’m talking about the president of your organization, their Executive Committee and all of their direct reports. It’s extremely easy to go into your ATS, post a job and collect veteran resumes. What isn’t as easy is getting your hiring managers to buy into hiring someone who may not have even the minimum requisite skills listed in the job description. But if you have support from the very top of your organization saying that we as an organization WILL do this, it makes a big difference in the results.
Strong Employee Resource Group
Another key piece of the puzzle is to have a strong Employee Resource Group or ERG. For my Veterans ERG, our leader was in the US Army as an Operating Room Technician and now currently works as a Client Services Team Leader. While he’s a well-respected employee with my client, he has the credentials when meeting the transitioning veterans to confidently say, “I’ve been where you are now, and we want to help”. The rest of our Veterans ERG are filled with “Veteran Allies” - myself included - who come from all different groups within the organization and all have different levels of experience.
Additionally, a successful Veterans hiring program certainly requires Funding! A lot of the Veteran events are free networking events that allow industry experts, hiring managers, recruiters, and members of veteran organizations the opportunity to share ideas and best practices. However, some of the best resources of information will require money to attend. Having a modest budget to allow for travel to these events, or to purchase tickets can help you open doors and set up your Veterans Hiring Program for success.
As a recruiter, most of our work is done via ATS, phone calls and emails. Take the opportunity to get out to career fairs and when possible, go to veteran specific job fairs. I recently attended one at Pace University where the first hour of the event was open to only Pace University students who were veterans. The remaining 3 hours were open to all veteran students. Having this level of exclusivity allowed my team to focus specifically on engaging with veterans form all levels of experience and branches of the military. It also put a personal touch on the efforts we were working towards and got the candidates interested in our organization.
One of the most overlooked groups of people in Veteran Hiring Programs are Military Spouses. Military Spouses are the men and women who stay behind to care for the family while their spouses are deployed. While Military spouses do continue to get paid while away, most households cannot survive on 1 income. So, they go out and get a job in their field, only to have to resign when the family is transferred to another base- which happens often. Companies are being encouraged to break the mold, and shift towards creating jobs that can be done 100% remotely. Organizations like WorkFlexibility.org are creating a grassroots movement to get companies to work towards this model. It’s also not uncommon for the spouses to have a license specific to their field that is only valid in their home state. A bill is currently in place to allow for military spouses to have their professional licenses transferable. Allowing military spouses the ability to keep their job (and easily move professional licenses) when the time comes will allow them to contribute to their family, their country and most importantly, themselves while their spouse is protecting our country.
In summary, this can be very rewarding work – but it is work, and requires a strong base and a strong leadership team. It also requires a strong commitment to do all that I’ve mentioned above for the right reasons- helping our veterans transition out of the military and continue their careers by removing barriers and gaining quality talent for our organizations.