The U.S. military provides some of the best employees for today’s job market. They are well trained, disciplined, loyal, and eager to continue within their specialty field. Most are active duty members who know that they will not have a military career. Others are at the end of their career and are excited to jump into the civilian job market. All of them are looking forward to consistent hours, better wages, and opportunities for advancement – to “Be All They Can Be.” I remember those exact thoughts running through my head as I approached my separation date after 20 years of service to my country. I was excited and more than ready to move on and succeed.
The problem with that dream is that it doesn’t happen without a large dose of luck and insider help. However, with pride and enthusiasm, new veterans accept the task of changing perspective employers’ minds. They know employers can have very high standards and require employee loyalty. So, they polish their new civilian “uniform” and prepare to stand tall as if appearing before a general. They are at the top of their game with knowledge and ready to learn new challenges.
Unfortunately, interview after interview often ends with disappointment for a lot of vets. Often, the interviewer is unfamiliar with the military in general or does not fully appreciate a vet’s experience and background. Too many times, this lack of understanding sends an otherwise qualified applicant to look elsewhere. It is fair to say that if you are an interviewer who is unfamiliar with the military and its lingo, you may not understand a good deal of what experience a veteran has or is quickly capable of learning.
During one of my interviews, I could see how confused the interviewer was. I asked him, “Do you have any military experience?” He replied, “None whatsoever.” I offered my assistance to explain the differences and the lingo, and he accepted. At the end of the interview, he thanked me for taking the time to help him with this obstacle. I wasn’t offered the job, but later learned that his employer hired a veteran liaison to assist with veteran applicants.
Vets are the perfect candidates for most retail positions in the corporate or civilian world. Let’s face it, retail positions are very fluid positions with great potential and rewards but can also be very difficult to make a living without the proper training and leadership qualities, especially if you are on commission. A retail associate must be dedicated, disciplined, and ready to deal at a drop of a card.
Retail is a compelling and rewarding profession that capitalizes on the experience and expertise of military veterans. Veterans often possess unique strengths, qualities, perspectives, and skills that enable them to become excellent retail professionals. Below are a few of the traits many veterans have in common and that retail corporations seek in candidates:
• Discipline, integrity, and ethical standards.
• Team orientation.
• Enhanced leadership skills.
• Ability to work with diverse groups.
• Enhanced skill at assessing situations and dealing effectively with difficult situations.
• Confident decision-making and problem-solving abilities.
• Ability to work independently and as a team member.
There is no doubt in my mind that veterans possess the skills and knowledge to make great employees. It is my hope that the retail market realizes the quality of veterans who are entering the job market and that these future employees may very well be their next asset.
The other side of that coin is that new veterans need to live up to the quality of those veterans who came before. These vets established a standard long before my generation, and it is the responsibility of my generation to maintain and exceed that standard.
Finally, for any veteran already in the workforce, when you see another veteran join your organization, make a conscious effort to assist them however you can. Say hello, give the veteran a hand, steer them in the right direction. And while you’re at it, welcome him or her home.
Steve Girard is a permanently disabled veteran who resides with his family and his service dog, Charlie (who is always by his side), in Westbrook. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.