Earlier this year I got a call from a man who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was despondent and angry. He wanted a job but said no one gave him a chance.
I suggested a few websites and nonprofit and public organizations that do job search assistance for veterans. I don’t know if he followed through. I don’t know if he got help or a job. I don’t know if he had employability problems or if he just had bad luck.
But shortly after his call, I heard from Bill Patterson, president of Nation Ranch Marketing, an agency that works with Kansas City-based Executive AirShare.
Executive AirShare employs pilots and mechanics, many of them trained by the military. It’s a natural job progression, but it doesn’t always happen naturally.
Patterson emphasized that it sometimes takes personal commitment by employers to consider and hire veterans. He told me about the head of Executive AirShare’s operation in Buffalo, N.Y., who saw a TV news piece about an unemployed veteran. The veteran had the skills to work in maintenance for the company. A job offer — and hiring — ensued when the employer reached out.
That may seem like a no-brainer. The military and civilian skills were perfectly transferable. It’s harder when there’s no obvious relation between, say, fixing tanks and working in a warehouse. People who counsel veterans say that’s when the “soft skills” acquired in the military are assets.
Ability to follow orders. Respect for authority. Attention to detail. Devotion to mission. Many veterans have these and other credentials. With a bit of job-specific training, they can be prized civilian employees.
Veterans also often have a first-hour preference to enter job fairs and meet employers before the rest of the public. That’s a benefit that shouldn’t be squandered to make a good impression. That’s the time to promote transferability of skills.