Of course the flip side of this meme are veterans who arrogantly believe that their DD-214 ENTITLES them to any job they so desire, regardless of qualifications, skills and experience. Before the whining and screaming starts, I’ve personally hired wounded warriors and veterans for Korean War to present eras for jobs as varied as cashier to management over several years and at several locations as a retail HR manager. I’ve spent time meeting with service members and their families at multiple 99th RSC Yellow Ribbon Program events at National Harbor and Hiring Our Heroes career fairs and military TAP-sponsored fairs on bases around the DC/Maryland/Virginia area, often on my days off. I earned my Patriot Award from the Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve for my volunteer work with veterans and their families. I’ve done my due diligence in reaching out and trying to help my fellow veterans get employed.
However, I do get tired of the superiority complex that some of my peers who served have all up on their shoulders, blocking their ability to see and think rationally. I get that you spent your time in uniform as a GySgt in mostly infantry units and have learned some serious leadership skills. That is valuable learning.
I’m sorry, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to hand the reins of a profitable, multi-million dollar business – a $50 million/year retail location, for example – over to you based solely on your rank and zero business experience. You don’t have to start from scratch, but you do need to learn a bit about the business before you get to move up. Your growth will likely be much, much faster (think 2-3 years vs. 10+ years for senior management) than those around you based solely on your abilities and desire to advance, but you do need to take it seriously and respect the business and process. You are making a career change. That is a big deal. You aren’t OWED something that you did not EARN yet.
Yes, I have actually had to have that conversation 8 gazillion times with the most recent generation of veterans transitioning back to civilian status. Usually, a certain segment would try to bullshit me or tell me what I owed them as an employer until I politely curb that shit by informing them I already earned my stripes and served in a war while they were wearing diapers. I seldom identified myself as a veteran first when interviewing or screening veteran candidates. I wanted to see how they behaved when they thought I was just Joe Smuckatelli, civilian hiring manager extraordinaire.
So yes, military leadership skills are important as they can demonstrate some management potential and coupled with additional relevant experience and/or education and willingness to grow professionally, you can move up quickly – if you are willing to EARN it. However, military leadership is not the ultimate in learning and aptitude. It is one skill of many you will need if you expect to be successful when you hang that uniform up permanently. What you can’t do and expect to be taken seriously is demand the world to be handed to you on a silver platter based solely on your DD-214 and what was on your sleeve or collar.
No, for the eleventy millionth time, you cannot reasonably expect to land that $200K/year coding job with zero experience and zero relevant education coming straight out of the division motor pool. No, the fact that you were a Sergeant does not = relevant education for advanced IT skills and licensing that take several years to learn and master. If you don’t respect the skills and mastery required then you don’t deserve the job. No, that is isn’t a failure to support the troops. If you want that IT gig (or anything else) that is utterly unrelated to your MOS, then you best get those books cracked open or get a part-time job on weekends and evenings that will afford you the experience you lack. That is part of EARNING your place.
I had stuff on my collars and sleeves too and a DD-214. I still had to EARN my place after taking off the uniform.
Veteran to veteran, I hope you can appreciate that I shared some real talk and didn’t coddle you or kiss your ass. You deserve to hear some truth. You can be successful and you can achieve your career goals. First, you have to understand that EARNING them is YOUR responsibility.
Sergeant James Landrith
USMC (1989-1995) and USMCR (1995-2001)
Gulf War Veteran
Human Resources Professional