Last month’s Veterans Day ceremonies around the country, honoring the men and women of our armed forces, were beautiful and moving. We are in debt to all those who choose to serve and protect our nation, whether it is for a few years or a full career. November was also Military Family Appreciation month, because behind every brave serviceperson is a whole network of family members who make all kinds of sacrifices.
In my work at ATR, I’ve come to appreciate that both veterans and their spouses encounter some very specific challenges in their careers. My recent discussions with representatives of both demographics uncovered new insights into critical barriers to employment and why employing military vets and spouses is beneficial to companies.
Learnings from a Working Military Spouse
First, my colleague at ATR International, Kristen Buhl, joined me on Parent. Boss. Leader. to discuss the challenge of being a working military spouse. The nature of a military career, with frequent deployments that require moving—to another state or even country—makes job continuity difficult, and full and rewarding employment elusive. She pointed out how hard that can be for many employers to get over. Companies often balk at hiring military spouses because of the possibility that they’ll lose an employee as soon as the next move comes.
However, Kristen tells me moving is just a possibility—and companies that think a bit differently and make small accommodations can tap into an underutilized resource and benefit greatly.
In addition to speaking with me, Kristen wrote an article covering the benefits of employing military spouses and veterans. Married to a retired squadron gunnery sergeant and logistics chief herself, she personally knows some of the benefits a military spouse can offer employers—great organizational and time management skills, adaptability, diverse perspectives and experience. Military spouses are also a highly educated group, with a greater-than-average 40% holding college degrees.
Remote jobs are particularly suited to military spouses because it literally doesn’t matter where they are performed. Once your employee lands at their new location, they can get back to work. Businesses can also consider whether a job can move with the employee even if it’s not a remote position. Do you have an office where they are going? Military spouses have valuable skills and experience to offer, which means the investment made in their employment isn’t a “sacrifice” just because of the nature of their spouse’s job.
Learnings from a Veteran
My conversation with retired Navy SEAL Jon Macaskill brought up another issue, one that I’ve heard about from other veterans: Employers do not always understand how relevant and transferable our veterans’ skills and experiences are to civilian jobs, even when it seems to me like it should be obvious!
Jon explained that after about six years, he was deciding whether to stay with the SEALs or explore civilian opportunities and leave the service. Multiple companies expressed interest, interviewed him, and raised questions about whether he had leadership skills or knew enough about management since he’d “just” been in the military all these years. Wow. Just, wow. The disconnect between reality and perception is huge here. It’s a blind spot that is shared by many employers, and everyone suffers. Talented people who have sacrificed in service for us remain unemployed or underemployed, and companies continue struggling to find talent.
How can people underestimate the skills of veterans and miss the ability of a Navy SEAL to do a job? I think this is partly because we tend to view our military as heroic, doing difficult, risky things in perilous situations. Not many of us would categorize our job or business as anything like that!
While that is true, we forget and underappreciate the amazing logistical and administrative undertaking running any military operation is. They require project management skills, pinpoint planning, and the ability to meet deadlines and goals. And what about leadership? Contrary to the idea that military rules and protocols are all it takes to keep everyone motivated and willing to run towards danger, managing a team of soldiers requires the same skills that any manager needs, just on a grander level!
Employing Military Veterans and Spouses Is Critical for All
Kristen and Jon are just two of the most recent military guests who have generously shared their story on Parent. Boss. Leader., and they are all amazing. I encourage you to listen to their full podcast episodes to get a true understanding of what impressive civilian employees they are! The companies that hired them made great decisions.
In some cases, like Jon’s for example, employers purposely court veterans and military spouses to join their team. I speak from experience since ATR has happily sought out and welcomed professionals from these demographics into our ranks for years. We have even advertised our openings specifically to military spouses since most of our jobs are portable. Kristen herself has had two deployments since starting with ATR and, luckily for us, remains a valued employee! We also work with several organizations helping veterans with their career transition.
My final words: Hire the military! It’s a great way to recognize and say thank you for your service AND you get an amazing employee!