3 Things You Should Learn About the Military
2 minutes to read
(NOTE: I wrote this for civilians who want to help veterans transition better. If you’re current or former military, please pass this on to a civilian friend.)
I spent a lot of time traveling the last five weeks. Airlines work hard to show their appreciation for service members and veterans. None charge bag check fees, even for personal travel. All let military people pre-board. Though they're small, I welcomed them nonetheless. But what do you do if you don't work for an airline?
It Takes Two to Create a Gap
For most military people, re-entering civilian life seems a bit like moving to a foreign country. A couple of examples will show what I mean.
Daily interactions change. For example, military courtesy requires extending a greeting. You say good morning or good afternoon to everyone who passes by. In the civilian world, older people like when I do this. Young women give me a dirty look. They must think I want to pick them up.
It’s not because I live in a big, anonymous city (Los Angeles). Veterans in smaller towns have the same experience. It’s just one way the structure of day-to-day life gives way to disorder.
Another culture shock comes from the attitude toward work. In the military, commitment to job completion is near universal. Hours worked have nothing to do with it. You stay until the task is done. But civilian work is not life or death. (Health care professionals and a few others are exceptions.) So the work ethic looks different.
Barring a major war and mass military mobilization (G-d forbid), civilian life is not going to become more like the military. So as much as veterans might want things to change, they won’t. Still, many could use a boost as they leave active duty and become a part of your community.
What can you do besides thanking them for their service?
Take on a Bit of the Transition Burden
Through my work with employers who want to hire veterans, I’ve identified three ways you can help.
- Understand military culture. Helping someone requires understanding. By learning about military culture, you can enter a veteran’s world. But forget movies and television. No matter how much they claim to be genuine, they're not. I mentioned a couple of issues above. Ask someone in the military to familiarize you with how it works. Keep in mind, everyone’s experience is a little different.
- Identify the benefits of hiring veterans. Many veterans, especially young ones, can't tell an employer why hiring veterans is good. People seem to know that military people have self-discipline and skills. But these benefits are too general. Check next week’s post for more on this issue.
- Use the military personnel structure. Anyone with even moderate success in civilian life has learned to market himself. Military people don't have this skill. We work in a structured personnel environment. Each service branch trains its members then codes their skills. Crack this code and you can pinpoint hiring for your organization.
Think about the last time you made a transition. Didn’t it feel good when someone reached out? Veterans appreciate straight talk and encouragement. If you want to move beyond these, you now have a road map.
How have you helped veterans transition?
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