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Mission-Critical Recruitment: Meeting Veterans Where They Are

By John Register  

As a professional keynote speaker specializing in How to Amputate Fear and Transform Adversity into Advantage, I understand veterans’ fears when transitioning to civilian life. The daunting question, “Who am I now?” and uncertainties about identity post-military service are rampant. However, these fears can be mitigated by job recruiters who value military personnel’s unique skills and resilience. These recruiters can craft strategic approaches to integrate military veteran talent into the civilian workforce.

My recent encounter at Dallas Love Field Airport’s USO with GySgt Brian Schiller (Ret.), who played a role in helping me develop the Paralympic Military Sports Program in San Antonio, Texas, underscores this point. While many veterans from this program have succeeded, others still struggle. GySgt Schiller, now employed with the Department of Homeland Security, which has numerous job openings, shared some insights into attracting and retaining military veteran talent.

“Recruiters must identify the veteran’s next purpose. A sense of purpose and achievement drives veterans. Understanding what this means to each individual is key to garnering their interest.

“Secondly, recruiters should define this purpose clearly, offering a roadmap for career progression that allows veterans to continue feeling the sense of accomplishment they experienced in the military.

“Third, since veterans have committed themselves to defending the U.S. Constitution, recruiters should demonstrate how their potential new role relates to their service. The challenge lies in transitioning from a military priority of survival and brotherhood to finding a similar urgency and purpose in civilian roles. Creating a culture that mirrors this sense of purpose is crucial. Recruiters can effectively attract a wealth of veteran talent by cultivating a new sense of purpose that resonates with veterans’ values and experiences,” Schiller concluded.

I went through the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) at BAMC. Many civilian job recruiters came to the TAP course to help retiring veterans navigate and transition successfully to civilian life. Like TAPS, the solemn bugle call played at military funerals signifies the end of a Soldier’s journey; the TAP marks the closing of one chapter and the beginning of a new chapter for the veteran. Recruiters need to understand the skills honed in the military, especially the ability to prioritize missions, are invaluable assets in the civilian workforce.

Recruiters stressed this alignment of military discipline with corporate objectives, helping veterans see the significance of our military skills in a new light.

In addition to helping veterans find their purpose, recruiters need to develop a strategy to meet the veterans where they are. The presence of recruiters on-site made my transition process approachable and convenient and helped me transfer my identity from Soldier to civilian. Some people had worn the uniform and cared about the transition of their military brother or sister. Meeting veterans where they are demonstrates empathy, and the change feels less daunting for veterans.

Another way our recruiters helped us prepare for job interviews was by suggesting we go out and practice live interviews for jobs we did not desire. This way, there was less pressure in the job interview for the job we wanted. Recruiters suggested we practice the technique they gave us when the stakes were low, just like military training before deployment.

We all know it is very stressful leaving the military. I remember my first interview using the recruiter’s strategy: applying for a city bus driver job in San Antonio. I knew the HR folks were never going to hire a one-legged man. Do you know I did so well in the interview I received a callback? I respectfully declined to go back for the second interview. That incident proved to me I was in more control than I first believed.

Recruiters need to understand there is a mapping gap. Translating military experience into civilian job language is one of the most significant hurdles. Recruiters who participated in the TAP were adept in interpreting military resumes and mapping skills and roles to civilian job requirements. This expertise is critical in helping veterans find suitable positions that match their skills and experiences. And they need to do it with enlisted and officer jobs. Understanding how to map job skills gives veterans more confidence in their transition.

In today’s market, recruiters need to know how to teach veterans to use generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) to research companies or the people they are going to interview with. They need to assist them with online tools such as LinkedIn.

When I bid on a speech, I gather relevant information and gain the competitive advantage by researching the people and positions using LinkedIn. There are many ways to stay online. Although online tools were not as prevalent during my transition, the landscape has changed drastically. Today, recruiters are using these tools and training veterans to be tech-savvy. With the surge in generative AI and other technological advancements, veterans must stay competitive in the digital realm. Recruiters play a significant role in equipping them with these essential skills.

Finally, recruiters must provide mentorship and networking opportunities in the post-transition support. This was a cornerstone of the TAP experience. Recruiters offered after-hours mentoring, demonstrating a commitment to the long-term success of us veterans. This ongoing support ensures a smooth transition and sustained success in civilian careers.

A veteran’s journey is a testament to the practical strategies that can facilitate the transition from military to civilian life. It underscores the importance of understanding and valuing military experience, providing targeted support and ensuring veterans have the necessary tools and knowledge for their new career paths.

As recruiters continue to support our veterans, it’s essential to keep evolving these strategies, ensuring they remain relevant in an ever-changing world. The commitment to our veterans’ success reflects our gratitude for their service and a recognition of the value they bring to our civilian workforce.

John Register (U.S. Army Retired) is a professional speaker who works with business professionals to Amputate Fear by Transforming Adversity into Advantage in order to Win Life’s Medals. To book Register to speak for your next event, please visit johnregister.com.

Explore more articles for the veteran community here.

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