Veteran hiring initiatives have helped raise public awareness about the tremendous value that service members bring to private sector companies. But stereotypes about veterans persist, including misconceptions about their skill sets and aptitude for different professional opportunities. One of the most surprising? Veterans are only successful in production or maintenance-related career paths.
I work with fantastic hiring managers across a range of industries, but some continue to let this misconception hold their companies back from hiring some truly outstanding veterans. Their thinking goes something like this: These guys must be great with their hands! They would be a great asset to my maintenance team! They certainly could be. But all too often, companies overlook other positions where veterans can also be a great fit, such as positions within operations, client services and budget management.
Keep an open mind when interviewing candidates who are transitioning from the military to the private sector. These are three important skills you may not realize they have.
Skill 1: Client Service
Popular culture likes to depict military leaders curtly issuing orders and enforcing chain of command. This depiction is the opposite of the personable and responsive attitudes that companies expect from employees in client-facing positions. Consequently, this depiction suggests veterans won’t excel within client services, which I know is far from the truth.
One of the biggest challenges with client-facing roles is calmly finding a solution when a client is upset or frustrated. Military veterans make a living by staying composed in the face of enemy fire. A customer who’s upset about a delay? That’s a piece of cake to resolve.
The air services and real estate industries are both doing a better job of recruiting military veterans for roles, including those in client services. These are industries with a variety of professional opportunities where veterans’ strong soft skills in customer service, sales and communication are a tremendous asset–and other industries should take note.
Skill 2: Budgeting and Finance
Working in the military is about using all the tools at your disposal, including financial tact. Often, the veterans I help place have managed significant budgets. It’s not unusual for these budgets to be larger than the entire company budget at the business where they’re interviewing.
I’ve even had hiring managers seem a little intimidated. They’ll ask, “Really? This guy had that many people working under him and managed it all?” It can be hard to wrap your mind around the full scope of a veteran’s experience.
Look at this experience as an advantage for your company. Someone who’s managed and looked at the financials for a team of hundreds of people will pass with flying colors at an organization that only has 10 or 20 people in a department.
Skill 3: Operations, Logistics and Project Management
Military units must manage troop movement, supply and maintenance. This might include transporting personnel, designing and developing materials, overseeing medical support, or managing the construction and operation of facilities.
Not only are veterans experienced with operations and logistics management, but they’ve also navigated a high stakes world where the wrong decision can carry life or death consequences. They’re confident decision-makers who can quickly assess a situation, process information and identify the optimal pathway forward.
Don’t pigeon-hole veterans into maintenance roles. I encourage all hiring managers to put veterans at the top of the list for open positions in operations, sales, logistics and finance.