Season 5, Episode 12:

Translating Veteran Skill Sets

In this edition of Recruiter Fuel, Steve sat down again with Bill Kieffer, president and chief advisor of Kieffer & Associates LTD to talk further about veterans’ transition into the workforce.

Steve and Bill dove right into a discussion of how the military prepares veterans for the workforce. In a word, Bill said the military does not adequately prepare them for the commercial world.

“Our Veterans Don’t Know the World They’re About to Enter”

Bill described a military program called the Transition Assistance Program. It covers a variety of aspects of the transition, but really focuses on technical aspects of civilian life, such as how to fill out forms, how to register with the VA, get medical coverage, etc. It’s a start, but the vast majority of feedback Bill has heard from veterans is that it does not properly prepare them for the commercial world.

“There’s good stuff, there’s great intent, it doesn’t get into the depth and breadth that really prepares our folks – our veterans – for entry into the civilian commercial work world. They just don’t know the culture and the world they’re about to enter.”

“We prepare our soldiers before they go into combat with military mission planning…and it’s all about understanding the various components and dimensions of the battlefield you’re about to face. But when we look at the folks entering now, we could say “the career battlefield” or the “career environment”…there’s not enough coverage of what that battlefield looks like.”

Employers Don’t Always See How the Military Experience Translates

Bill and Steve then discussed whether military experience is relevant to the business world – and if it is, whether that’s fully appreciated by employers. Obviously, many of their technical skills, such as how to man an artillery gun, don’t transfer over. However, there are other competencies and abilities that are highly valuable.

Steve mentioned that many employers don’t see the benefit of a veterans military experience, or don’t understand how these skills translate. Bill agreed that he sees this a lot.

“Like any communication interaction, there’s responsibility on both the sender and the receiver’s parts. The veterans that are coming out need to do a better job of understanding how to state their experience in the language that interviewers and hiring managers understand. I can say I was a 92-alpha multi-tactical multi-functional load logistician…but I might as well be speaking a foreign language.”

“There’s also a bit of responsibility on the part recruiters, sourcers, interviewers, hiring managers, to understand the language of the veterans if they want to really tap into that great, capable market. So there’s work to be done on both sides of this equation.”

“Have to Get Past Surface Level Perceptions”

Steve told a story about a veteran who worked at Qualigence as a recruiter. He was an infantryman and had never sold or worked as a recruiter a day in his life. However, Steve was blown away by the tenacity with which he approached the job. He excelled in the role as a result, despite his lack of related experience.

“We gotta get past the surface level perceptions and get on to the capabilities that our veterans truly bring.”

“If you look at the capabilities, the characteristics, the competencies beyond the technical bits of the job, that’s where the value comes…our veterans come in very agile…they’re experienced at working in quickly changing environments, some of them very dangerous, but they’re adept at that change, they can manage through change, and they can bring that capability to the civilian work world.”

We Have to Work with Veterans to Tell the Story, and Work with Employers to Hear the Story

Ultimately, Bill emphasized that recruiters have to do a better job trying to understand the value that veterans can bring, while veterans need to work on communicating in the language of the commercial world.

On our next recruiter fuel episode with Bill, we’ll cover the framework that he has created to help organizations overcome the challenge of recruiting vets.

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