MYTHS ABOUT VETERANS
National Guard and Reserve employees have to drop everything and leave at a moment’s notice.
Employees who are still serving are just as reliable (and often more so) than civilian employees. Just like every employee, certain emergencies may take them out of work, but these are usually few and far between.
With rare exception, all training and deployments that military employees are required to attend are scheduled many months in advance. Guard and Reserve members do occasionally get “called up” to active duty with no notice in the case of major disasters or emergency military deployments. These are opportunities for your employees to serve their community (and yours) when they’re needed most. In all cases, your employees are required by law to give as much reasonable notice as possible. And don’t forget—every time your military employees get called up to train or to serve, they’re getting invaluable experience that your company will benefit from.
Veterans are unstable or unreliable because of trauma they’ve experienced.
The vast majority of veterans have no health issues—including those returning from a combat zone. In fact, considering the physical requirements put on the military, most military members are generally healthier than the average civilian.
Around 55 percent of all people (including civilians) experience trauma in their lives that results in stress. For a small percentage of those people (around 10 percent for civilians and veterans), that stress turns into what's known as post-traumatic stress (PTS). Those veterans who do suffer from PTS or other effects such as traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be treated, and in the majority of cases are fully rehabilitated with no recurring effects.
Service members who return from combat with a physical disability are also rehabilitated—most returning to serve as some of the most loyal employees you’ll find in the workplace today. One of the early steps in hiring veterans is developing flexible work schedules including job sharing or telecommuting. Having those in place will attract service-disabled veterans.
For more information on post-traumatic stress, visit the Department of Veterans Affairs' National Center for PTSD.
Legal obligations involved in hiring veteran workers are too much of a pain.
There are no legal hurdles for hiring veterans. Once they’re hired, your biggest obligation is to make sure you're following the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), the law governing employers' relationships with military employees.
Along with making it illegal to discriminate against applicants because of their military service, it deals primarily with military workers who are called up to active duty. The bottom line of the law is that if a National Guard or Reserve employee is put on active duty while employed, the company they’re leaving can’t fire them for their service to their country. USERRA also puts requirements on the military employees, ensuring that they do their part to make the relationship with their employer a good one by giving as much reasonable notice as possible in the event they have to leave. You can make your company much more appealing to service members and their spouses by having in place job shadowing, internal training or rotational workflows. These will make your employees more versatile and make it much easier for both your company and your veterans if they ever get called to active duty.
Veterans make good police and firefighters, but that’s about it.
With hundreds of different military specialties, veteran applicants have the same wide range of skills and competencies as their civilian counterparts, but they generally have a broader depth of experience.
The days of young people who enter the military only because they can’t get into college are long gone. The military develops workers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields such as nuclear and cryptologic sciences and computer-based specialties like cybersecurity and networking.
In addition to expertise in a variety of areas—there are veterans skilled at everything from aviation mechanics to dentistry to graphic design—every veteran also has experience that directly relates to the civilian workforce like team and project management and human resource development. In addition, most veterans (and often their spouses) have access to free college and professional development courses that employers can benefit from. Factor in that veterans and their spouses have proved to be adaptable, hardworking and willing to take on the biggest challenges, and you have a multitude of attractive workers in all sorts of career fields.
When posting an open position, be sure to add language that will attract veterans with these skills: For example, don't say merely "bachelor's degree required"; instead, say "bachelor's degree or military experience preferred."
Veterans coming off active duty need time to adjust before they’re worth hiring.
The transition from active duty to civilian life is just like any major life change, but transitioning veterans have even more assistance available to them than civilians.
Every branch of the military has people whose sole job is to assist veterans and their families with re-entering the civilian world. So while a veteran who is coming off of active duty will have many of the same exact challenges as a civilian making a big life change, the veteran has even more resources to help them through the process. The reality is that the vast majority of service members coming off of active duty are doing so by choice. They’re not just ready for civilian life—they’re itching for it. That means they’re going to be just as excited to work for you as you are to hire them.
Veterans and their spouses move so much that they’re not good hires.
The military has changed its policy of moving families around, and now most stay put for years at a time. Part-time Guard and Reserve families never move unless they choose to.
You’ve heard the horror stories of active duty families being moved all over the globe at the military’s whim. Those days have changed. Today’s military recognizes that stable families are healthier families. Stable families also mean reliable employees. Military spouses are hardworking, dependable workers who tend to be loyal to their employers—especially ones who strive to be military-friendly.
Service members and their spouses have employment gaps in their resumes because they lack commitment and skills.
Just like civilians, there are often great reasons for these gaps and career shifts—you just have to ask.
If a veteran has been on active duty long enough, they will have moved at least once or twice. These moves often lead to breaks in employment for their spouses. New locations also often mean new opportunities, which in turn lead to changes in career direction. Far from being a warning sign, these career changes demonstrate their resourcefulness and resilience, and give military spouses a wide variety of experience that they bring with them to their new jobs. This broad knowledge base of best practices, along with the confidence that comes with life experience, often turns into the spouses’ greatest strength as employees.
MYTHS ABOUT MILITARY SPOUSES
Military spouses move constantly.
The average duration of a military assignment is about three years, according to a report by Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF). But this number changes by branch and the veteran’s career field. Many assignments last four years, which means a spouse can dedicate as much time to his or her new job as the average worker today. This is also double the amount of time most of today’s young workers spend at one job.
Spouses do not necessarily move when their service member moves. This often happens if the service member is given a short assignment, a child has specific educational needs or the spouse feels especially loyal to his or her job. Almost 60 percent of military spouses have resided in a different geographical location from their spouse, according to the IVMF report.
But keep in mind that you'll attract more military spouses who are capable if your company has flexible work arrangements in place, such as telecommuting.
Military spouses don’t have work experience.
Military spouses who do not have a traditional resume still have lots of skills that employers value. For example, as a Spouse Club officer, one might recruit members, maintain budgets and spearhead marketing campaigns. Spouses’ extensive volunteer experience is usually indicative of lots of workplace skills.
Military spouses don’t have strong educational backgrounds.
More than 85 percent of military spouses have gone to college or completed coursework at that level. This is more than the general population. Twenty-five percent have attained a bachelor’s degree, according to the IVMF report. A large percentage of spouses are actually “underemployed,” meaning that they have more formal education than they need for their job.
Resume gaps indicate a time when the spouse did not wish to work.
By no means is a lack of desire to work a cause of military spouse unemployment at a particular time. Many spouses do not realize that they can showcase volunteer experience conducted in these “gap years” on their resumes. Ninety percent of military spouses surveyed in 2014 indicated a desire to work but were constrained by assignments in locations with limited job opportunities, or employers’ reticence to hire a military spouse.