After leaving the Marine Corps and finishing my undergraduate degree, I took a job as a regional HR manager for a large defense contractor. At the time, I wasn’t sure why the company (which will remain nameless for the sake of this article) was willing to hire a Marine with no real human resources experience for such a role, with hundreds of employees and multiple facilities under my jurisdiction, but they offered me more money than I asked for, so I stopped asking questions and got to work ironing my suits.
Unbeknownst to me, the company was in the midst of a significant transition, and I would be the face of countless layoffs and terminations, as well as being in charge of the recruiting effort necessary to re-staff my region and help create the company’s new vision for the 21st century. My wife was working as a corporate recruiter in the tech and pharmaceutical fields at the time, so the two of us spent many a late night trolling through resumes together, tossing ones back and forth that might fit into a spot in each of our respective organizations. I hated working in human resources. Crying employees that I couldn’t throw out of my office, hurt feelings taking up bullet points in my reports to management, and driving a thousand-plus miles a week between facilities really started to take a toll…but my biggest stress wasn’t the company’s fault.
I was hired as part of a concerted effort to bring in more veterans. Our company was a DoD contractor, but the nature of our work required pretty specific qualifications that no occupational specialty in the military lent itself to in particular. Despite that, the company was yielding to pressure from its government contracts to hire more veterans, and I brought with me a sense of duty to my fellow service members that required I make every effort to help find good vets good jobs. We had the will to hire, we had the positions to fill, but the issue I ran into time and time again was actually the efforts of the veterans themselves.
Now, I’ve read a million articles about the mistakes veterans make when entering the private sector. “Don’t use military acronyms,” “don’t mention your post-traumatic stress disorder,” and “don’t act too robotic,” are common ones you can find by searching “veteran problems job hunting”—and frankly, they’re each silly. Hiring managers, like everyone else, come to the table with their own preconceived biases regarding the military. Some may love your veteran status, others may shy away from it. Some may have served and won’t be confused or befuddled by your use of crazy military sayings like “good to go,” others may not even recognize your language as uniquely military. The point is, hiring managers are people, and making broad assumptions about what will please them is a silly thing to try to do.