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We set aside November 11 to honor veterans and let them know how much we appreciate their service. There’s another, better way, to show your appreciation: make a veteran a job offer. The U.S. Census estimates that there are over 100,000 veterans living in Northeast Florida, many with spouses and working age family members. That’s close to 10 percent of our population connected to military service, a point of pride for us and one reason many companies consider locating operations here.
Veterans are very attractive as a workforce for many reasons. Their military service builds character and provides opportunities for leadership and responsibility at a very young age. Military culture rewards courage, loyalty, discipline and grit, qualities that every company values and seeks in its workforce. Veterans are also great followers; they respect structure and tradition, and they understand the importance of compliance to rules and safety policies. They understand how to work as part of a team and when to switch from leader to follower – and back again, when circumstances require it.
Many veterans have had to perform under enormous pressure in life and death circumstances. They have had to make split-second decisions under (literal) fire. It’s tough to find a veteran who gets shaken up by tough language in a heated staff meeting. They don’t wilt under criticism, and they don’t pout when they don’t get their way. For the most part, they accept command decisions and move on.
Veterans thrive in a culture of accountability; they expect to be judged on their results rather than their intentions. They’re used to spending hours and hours in intense training and drills to master important skills. They take fierce pride in becoming the best at what they do, and they understand the importance of keeping their tools sharp and in good working order. (See “life and death” above.)
Employers are concerned that our helicopter parenting style has created a generation of young workers who get discouraged easily and can’t tolerate differences of opinion. Military members are trained not to quit – there’s no such thing as a time out in the midst of a firefight. Navy SEAL swimmers must pass what’s called a “drownproofing” test. Swimmers have hands and feet bound, and under the vigilant watch of their trainers, the bound men hop into the deep end of the pool. They must bob up and down twenty times, float for five minutes, swim to the shallow end of the pool, turn around without touching the bottom, swim back to the deep end, do a forward and backward somersault underwater, and retrieve a face mask from the bottom of the pool. All without the use of their hands or feet. Someone who has passed that test doesn’t give up when things get a bit uncomfortable.
I know these things because I’m married to a former Navy rescue swimmer. He’s been retired for many years, but his coworkers and clients remark almost daily on how upbeat and calm he remains, no matter how “hard” a day he’s having at the office. Privately, he laughs about it. He’s like most veterans I’ve met when he says “Getting shot at or jumping out of helicopters was hard. Any day I wake up in a warm bed at home is a good day.”
Next time you get a chance, thank a vet for his or her service. Then, think about giving them a shot at bringing their extraordinary skill set to your team.