July 25, National Hire a Veteran Day: How a Military Mindset Helps Uncover New Job Opportunities

(U.S. Air Force/Mauricio Campino)

John Giltz, the son and father of Marines, served 30 years in the Marine Corps, retiring as a colonel in 2019. He is currently the project director at Atlantic Marine Corps Communities, serving families across eight Marine/Navy military installations.

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A few years ago, I started a new hobby.

About once a week, I scroll through LinkedIn looking for people exiting from the military who are seeking assistance or advice in figuring out what's next in their civilian lives, particularly when it comes to finding a job. While I'm not a civilian employment recruiting expert, I like to offer up some solid advice from what I've learned in my post-military life after proudly serving 30 years in the Marine Corps.

That advice is geographically specific to North Carolina, where I live, but anyone could replicate my approach.

I tell former service members they have to be willing to put themselves out there and ask for help with transition. Most of us with military backgrounds have enjoyed and worked well within teams. Because of that, we tend to focus on the team more than ourselves. That is required in the military, but the focus on "others before self" -- or more often, "others and NOT self" -- can impede our transition. Bottom line, there's no better time than when you're entering civilian life to focus more on yourself: It is not selfish.

The transition to civilian life can be difficult for many veterans, but it doesn't have to be. My main message on this National Hire a Veteran Day is that veterans have to be willing to be humble enough to accept assistance and realize this is often a whole new world for them.

Fortunately, right now is a decent time to be a veteran in the workforce, and programs that aid vets in finding work have had a positive impact. The proof is in the statistics. In 2021, the unemployment rate for all veterans was 4.4%, well below the percentage of unemployed nonveterans (5.3%). Additionally, unemployment rates for both male and female veterans decreased in 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

In a perfect world, that unemployment rate for veterans would be even lower.

If you're struggling to find employment, or wondering where to start your search, just know that you probably already have the tools to figure it out. I like to call it the "military mindset." Explore your geographic area the same way you would while doing intel prep of the battlefield. When you're getting ready to go out on a mission, you don't just go out there. You assess the situation. Where are the good guys? Where are the bad guys? Where are the danger areas? Where are the opportunities? Where are the pitfalls?

Obviously, you're not looking for bad guys. But how do you tap into that same mindset? You don't just get in your car and drive around searching aimlessly. There are plenty of organizations out there that will do the work for you, helping you assess your options and prepare you for the next phase of your life. Whether it's the Department of Veterans Affairs, Hire Heroes USA, the Department of Labor, or a local veteran's organization or chamber of commerce, chances are the path to your next opportunity is just a phone call or email away.

Veterans have been successful both in their time serving and after because we're great at working in teams and we're adept at solving problems. We've also always been able to tap into a sense of purpose. If you're struggling with life after the military, tap into that feeling. Find your purpose, and let those who want to help you do some of the work for you. Let them help you find what makes you want to get up in the morning.

For me, it was always the people who I served with and a belief that, most of the time, most of what I was working on mattered and made a difference.

The biggest thing for employers and prospective employees to realize is that the search, like most things, is a two-way street. Employers need self-motivated, talented, responsible employees who buy into their mission and culture, and veterans typically want to work in an organization that makes them want to contribute to its mission.

Is a veteran the right fit for your organization? Most likely, yes -- but remember they joined the service primarily because of the sense of purpose it provided. What is your organization's purpose, and is it worth getting out of bed in the morning?

If you can answer that question affirmatively, you're on your way to drawing veterans to your team.

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