‘Hiring a vet’ is not an act of charity. Organizations that claim they ‘hire veterans’ in the same way they claim they are ‘going green’ are missing the point, and here is why:
They value service before self
Forget customer service training, serving members were trained in a form of service unparalleled in the civilian world. Right from day one, the military instills the true value of service in its members and it is often put to the test in life or death situations.
In the military, ‘service’ means commitment to a larger moral/ collective cause. It’s not just what customer-service representatives do for the purpose of increasing corporate profits. Profits are merely a by-product of this commitment. In an age where the ‘call of duty’ has turned into a videogame, and ‘loyalty’ has been replaced by ‘brand loyalty’, civilian employers can learn from the military’s version of ‘service’.
They are leaders
Forget the outdated stereotype of the docile soldier who only follows orders. Contemporary military strategy requires leadership capacity throughout the chain of command. The concept of the ‘Strategic Corporal’ has been developed to describe the increased level of responsibility given to individuals on these lower levels of the chain of command.
In their early 20’s, a serving member may be given far more responsibility than the average civilian will gain in a lifetime. They are at the forefront of implementing Canada’s foreign policy, making decisions under strict legal regulations and global scrutiny. They must act, despite the risk and high pressure conditions – shirking responsibility can have fatal consequences. Civilian employers can learn from the service member’s version of leadership – one that only comes from truly committed service.
They understand adversity
The phrase, “don’t sweat the small stuff” really takes on a new meaning to someone who can say, “at least I’m not being shot at” when they’re having an off-day. Enduring the constant risk of mortar attacks and IED strikes, witnessing extreme poverty, and having to perform at peak levels for long hours in 140 °F heat are some of the adversities serving members face.
In the civilian world, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” is a book people keep in their drawer to remind themselves that the world is not going to end when the copier gets jammed. Despite the daily reminders, it is difficult to truly internalize this maxim unless you’ve seen adversity. Serving members coming back from Afghanistan have witnessed more adversity than most individuals in comfortable developed Western nations can ever imagine. Civilian employers can learn from the impact of adversity on the veteran’s ability to focus on what matters.
Serving those who served requires getting past the charity mentality. Serving those who served first requires learning from those who served. If we want to provide a business environment conducive to veterans’ flourishing, we need to first create these environments by learning the true meaning of service, the value of leadership, and the perspective that comes from experiencing adversity.
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