Tips for veteran job seekers and employers looking to hire more veterans

November 8, 2013

From the language to the customs, corporate culture and military culture can differ widely. Here is some advice from former service members and corporate recruiters for navigating those two worlds. — Sarah Halzack

TIPS FOR JOB SEEKERS

1. Tap your network. Nearly every recruiting professional said it was critical to connect with other former military members who can help steer you toward job openings or training programs. Sean Kelley, senior director of military recruiting at Microsoft, said he often tells transitioning servicemen and women to make a list of 50 people they know, and schedule 50 cups of coffee. One of them is bound to result in a job lead.

2. Talk yourself up. “One of the things in the military is you never say ‘I,’ you say ‘we,’” said Rich Register, who helps coordinate Military MOJO job fairs. But when hunting for a job, experts and recruiters say you can’t be shy about touting your individual achievements. It is the only way employers will know what you bring to the table.

3.Have a plan. Paul Elliott, who served in the Army from 2005-2012 and now works as a financial adviser, recommends beginning your job search before you separate from the military. “I’ve seen a lot of service members get out with the mentality that they’re going to wing it,” Elliott said. “Don’t let go of one branch until you have a firm grasp on the next.”

4.Be mindful of corporate culture. Zach Zimmerman, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said he remembers an early foray into the corporate world when a managing director was leaning over his shoulder and pointing to the Excel document on his screen.“I’m standing up as he’s talking, and he’s like, ‘What are you doing?’ ” Zimmerman recalls with a laugh. Because of his military training, Zimmerman’s instinct was to stand anytime someone senior spoke to him. He had to quickly adapt to the different protocol of his new setting.

TIPS FOR EMPLOYERS

1.Engage your existing veteran workforce. When it comes to hiring veterans, “We’ll get referrals from our current employees who have already transitioned. That’s a terrific way to source,” said Arie Ball, vice president for sourcing and talent acquisition at Sodexo.

2.Realize small details might go a long way. “Our veterans are coming from an environment where they’re used to seeing people in uniform,” said Ed Crenshaw, chief executive of Destin Enterprises. “You can see their name tag, their specialty, occupation.” Accordingly, Crenshaw said you might make these employees more comfortable if you gave them a sense of what your company’s organization chart looks like and how they fit into it.

3.Remember that hiring is just the beginning. “You have a lot of organizations that really kind of tout themselves for having a high number of veterans that they hire, but it’s no indication of how many actually stay there,” Crenshaw said. He suggests measuring the success of your veterans’ program by how many of these workers you are able to retain over time.

4.Understand the importance of mentorship. In order to achieve those retention goals, many companies have established peer mentoring relationships to make sure the veteran has a sounding board for questions and has guidance for advancing within the company.

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