My dad retired as a navigator from the Air Force in 1987 while we were stationed in Germany – the next three years were some of the toughest of his professional life. He started two jobs, neither a good fit for his skills and I know he struggled to figure out what to do in his “second act” while trying to support his family. In 1987, there were no military career fairs or LinkedIn, no recruiting conferences or Internet and my dad felt alone in his search. Finally, through a former colleague in the Air Force, he found an opportunity to work as a trainer at Boeing (a perfect fit for my father!) and he found his next career.
Dad always felt that referral and the subsequent job he landed rebuilt him, and he spoke of his colleague with great respect and admiration. He often joked that his buddy had saved his life and he took the help he received as a call to arms, often helping other veterans find opportunities at his company. He felt he owed it to them.
This Veterans Day I challenge those of us who have served to ask: how can we best serve and promote our brothers and sisters in arms in the workplace?
- Veterans should demand legitimate veteran hiring programs in their company and the resources and people to make them a reality, no matter how big or small. It’s not enough to post ads on veteran job boards and attend hiring events – veterans should demand hiring programs that identify, source, and interview qualified veterans for positions in their companies. Veteran hiring managers should step up and not only interview veterans that are fits for their jobs, but work with and train other hiring managers to help them bring on veteran talent.
- Veterans who are leaders and stakeholders in their companies need to hold themselves and the corporate leadership responsible for hiring qualified veterans. Nothing gets done that is not inspected, and anyone in corporate America knows that if a project or program is important to your boss, it immediately becomes important to you. Veterans in leadership positions in industry should accept responsibility and accountability for getting more veterans into their firms.
- Veterans need to be open networkers and recruit other veterans aggressively to their companies. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, among other social media platforms, allow veterans to connect and advertise open positions and recruiting points of contact. Military unit, University, ROTC, and Service Academy networks are great places to let people know you support veteran hiring and are willing to serve as a connector. Local, regional, and national industry groups are great ways to connect on a greater scale to support veteran hiring. You can take action today by putting “veteran hiring advocate” in your LinkedIn title. Include a note about your desire to assist other veterans find jobs in your company in your summary – you will be surprised by the response you receive.
- Join your veteran employee resource group. Veteran employee resource groups are a great way to help recruit, onboard, and retain veterans and lead to great networking opportunities within your company. If you don’t have one, contact your Human Resources group and help start one.
I became a military recruiter in part because I wanted to help veterans avoid the same thing my dad went through, the loneliness and uncertainty of finding your next career after leaving the service. My dad found his professional feet but only with the help of another veteran, someone who reached out and made the call. This Veterans Day, who better deserves our service than our fellow veterans? We have an obligation to help those find jobs who come after us in order to honor their legacy and build ours. What are you doing to help veterans find a job this Veterans Day?