Creating success in your transition to civilian employment involves tools similar to creating mission success in the military. In the military you had to have good tools, dependable teammates, an initial plan of action, and above all else, good intelligence on what you were walking (or sailing, flying, etc.) into.
This holds true of your transition and job search outside of the military. Not only do you need good tactical intelligence on the job for which you are applying – duties involved, how your skills and experience fit, positions where you’ve applied the same skills, etc., you also need strategic intelligence on the company and how supportive the organization is toward those who have served in the military or continue to serve in the Guard/Reserves.
This is an important area that’s often overlooked, yet it’s something that will give you an indication of how the organization will value your military service and provide some understanding of how happy you’ll be in the long run. This won’t be the deciding factor on taking a job, but it should be part of the intel you gather as you look for companies where your skills are wanted.
What Does “Veteran Friendly” Mean?
I have seen many companies call themselves “Veteran Friendly” but honestly what does that mean? We have all had people come up to us and say “thank you for your service,” and many of those who have not served think this is all they need to do. The same can be said of veteran-friendly companies. They may say thanks and even offer a discount to military personnel when it comes to purchases, but is that really being supportive of those who have worn the uniform? More importantly, how will they look at you as an employee who did your service?
It’s important that we look for companies that are not just “friendly” but those that are truly “veteran-supportive.” Veteran-supportive companies and organizations are those that have taken it upon themselves to do more than just say thanks. These organizations make an effort to understand where you’re coming from, what skills you bring to the table and also help you to acclimate so you can be successful.
While there are a great many things an organization can do, here are a few that I have found to be especially helpful:
- The Company Has a Veteran Employee Resource Group
- An EVRG, or whatever it may be called, is a group or “club” of prior service members. Ball Aerospace, Bank of America and DaVita are all examples of companies that have put these types of groups together. It may be formal or informal, but these are companies that support Vets who are employees and come together and share ideas, talk about transition and usually get involved in some community support activity. The Bank of America’s EVRG pitched in to volunteer together at VFW Memorial Day picnic event. Ball Aerospace routinely meets to find volunteer opportunities in the community to support other Veterans.
- Military Culture Training of Key Staff
- A great indicator of how supportive a company is when it comes to those who’ve served is finding out if key folks have undergone some type of military culture training. These are companies where HR folks and company recruiters have undergone some type of training to understand where you are coming from, what skills and how to relate to what you bring to the table. While they will not know everything about life in the military, the training they receive allows them to have sincere discussions with Veterans looking to join their workforce. Large companies like DaVita have done this, but so too have smaller companies like RK Mechanical.
- Companies that look beyond MOS
- Military Occupational Skill is essentially your job position within the military. Most MOS translators just do direct correlation between military and civilian jobs. The problem is the MOS doesn’t cover all the training and outside responsibilities. For example, I was in the infantry and by all accounts I should be a police officer or a security guard. That ignores the personnel, project and financial management responsibilities a service member has. An example of a company that has done a good job in this is AT&T. On the link to their MOS Translator through their website, I can put in my MOS, 11B, and find jobs all over the country. This is far better than most of the military occupation translators I have seen, including those powered by the federal government.
- Companies that Understand and Support members of the National Guard and Reserves
- Many of us continue our military service as members of the Guard and Reserves, though there are some companies that don’t like to hire folks who are part-time military because they are worried they will get activated and deployed. Why, they figure, should they put time into training and integrate you into a team when there is a chance you could be sent away for a period of time. While there are legal ramifications involved with a company retaliating against someone who is called to duty, it still becomes a huge issue for the individual and takes time to resolve. Plus, do you really want to work at a place where you have to resort to getting a lawyer involved?
- A number of organizations are deservedly proud of their employees who continue to serve, and some have even gone above and beyond by providing pay to offset any loss in income the service member might encounter. I know when I was in the Reserves, my company — Liberty Media — didn’t even make me take vacation while I was away on Annual Training and continued to pay me as if I were still there at work.
- Even if you are not part of the Guard or Reserves, how companies treat the men and women who continue to serve in this capacity is a good reflection of how you will be treated. Check out your state ESGR — Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves — Program to find companies that are veteran-supportive. ESGR is a DoD organization that recognizes companies that are supportive of these men and women and jumps in to mediate when problems arise. Xcel Energy is one such company that was recognized by ESGR, and they take great care of their Veteran employees, including those continuing to serve.
- Look at Which Companies Support Veterans in the Community
- A great indication of organizations that are really supportive of veterans is what they do in the community. Home Depot provides some great grants to veteran service organizations, and my VFW Post was able to paint their entire building through a paint donation. First Command adopted Project Sanctuary and has supported their week-long family retreats though both a strong corporate financial donation and by offering financial planning classes to military couples.
Take a deeper look at the organization your are hoping to join and get some basic intel on how they treat those who came before you and those who will certainly follow in your footsteps.
As mentioned, while this may not be the deciding factor, it will give you a better understanding of the culture you are looking to enter. You will find that those organizations that really are veteran-supportive are going to be a much better fit for you in the long run. Plus, at a point down the road you’ll be in a better situation to assist those service members and veterans coming behind you, and you’ll have great company support to assist.
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