How Companies can Improve Veteran Relations, from a Veteran

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While businesses continue to have conversations about diversity in the workplace, we still haven’t prioritized diversity of experience in the ways that we should. To make significant progress, organizations must ensure that veterans are included in these conversations. And while more companies are making a conscious effort to recruit veterans, veterans continue to face many challenges when transitioning into civilian workforce. Veterans have proven to bring a unique set of skills to a business, so what can companies and recruiters do to ensure that both the business and veterans are set up for success?

Valerie Lopez, Cision’s VP of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion said it best: "My mission is to foster a culture of inclusivity, and that includes making veterans feel welcome and part of the community. It's important for organizations to consider all types of representation, and diversity of experience should always be part of that conversation." 

Today is Veterans Day. What better time to reflect on what your company can do to improve your relationship with veterans, particularly those who are making their first transition into the civilian workforce?

Here are five ways to get started: 

1.     Don't underestimate our skills 

After over nine years in the United States Coast Guard, I began my job search, looking for more corporate positions. It quickly became clear to me that most people assume that veterans only want jobs that are of service, or that they're only qualified for manual labor roles. I went to countless hiring events- specifically for veterans- and found that there just wasn’t enough of a variety of job opportunities. There appears to still be a misconception that former military aren't prepared for strategic or corporate roles, which just isn’t the case. Companies shouldn’t limit the roles that they consider veterans for, as they’re missing out on qualified candidates who could bring tremendous value to their organization.  

2.     Provide mentorships  

Anyone who served in the military will naturally know to shadow those who are successful. With that in mind, it's helpful to connect recent veteran hires with senior employees in whose footsteps they can follow. By observing and learning from these employees, they’ll quickly understand what it takes to thrive in their role and in your organization. 

3.     Maintain an open dialogue  

While this should be standard practice for all employees, it’s especially important for veterans to feel that they have a safe environment to address any concerns. Establish mandatory check-ins and keep the lines of communication open. It’s particularly vital to communicate this to new hires, as veterans might just assume to take challenges on themselves, when problems could be solved quicker with the support of colleagues.   

4.     Train internally 

To hold leadership and recruiters more accountable, organizations should make training sessions mandatory, particularly focused on topics like unconscious bias. It’s also important for recruiters to learn more about how veterans' skills will translate into civilian work. Their resume isn’t going to look like everyone else’s, so it’s crucial that recruiters don’t disregard veterans’ unique skillsets. Training should also be mandatory for managers so that they’re prepared for how to best support new hires, as the transition out of the military can be a culture shock for some. 

5.     Give veterans a chance 

While it may seem obvious, veterans really just need that one chance to prove themselves, and they too often don’t get it. I sent hundreds of emails when I was trying to transition into civilian workforce, and still found myself with zero job prospects. Ultimately, it was a veteran himself who provided me with that one opportunity I needed to get in the door. There are ways recruiters can work around certain challenges throughout the hiring process, so that they don’t eliminate a potentially great candidate. For instance, recruiters who require candidates provide references, can ask the veteran to be connected with their former military manager. This should be handled in the same manner that hiring managers reach out to any candidate’s former employer. Just because the process may be atypical, doesn’t mean a candidate should be overlooked.  

Veterans have proven to be vital to organizations’ growth, but ultimately it’s up to businesses to make a conscious effort to include veterans in their diversity initiatives.  

About Jamal Bethea

Jamal (“Jay”) Bethea is Senior Product Marketing Manager at earned media leader Cision, where he is dedicated to supporting, growing, and enabling the enterprise team. Jay comes from a unique background as a United States Coast Guard for over 9 years. After his time in the Coast Guard, Jay worked his way up in the tech industry by holding positions as a technology salesperson, Marketing Insight Analyst, and Product Marketer.

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