Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Cleared for Transition, Part 1: Introduction
This month, Rotor & Wing International is introducing a column to discuss the issues military veterans face when transitioning to the civilian work force. This topic is important to us because we recognize the needs of our heroic veterans, and understand the difficulties of finding quality employees for great civilian companies. Each year, more than a quarter of a million veterans depart the military, many of whom search for employment in the civilian sector. These veterans carry with them the discipline, training, values, leadership, and skill sets instilled in them by Uncle Sam. Many of them will be all-star candidates for any civilian company, but the ugly truth is that many transitioning veterans don’t understand the complexities of the civilian world any more than civilians understand the difficulties veterans have conquered.Becky Pierce recently co-founded the Career Tree, a company working to get veterans into their targeted careers. She shared with me that “most veterans speak a different language than their civilian counterparts. In the civilian world, titles such as Shops Platoon Leader mean nothing, but ‘direct supervisor for eleven employees, responsible for more than $20 million worth of equipment resulting in zero losses in a five-year period’ translates to a manager who has supervised and trained employees, managed equipment and protected the company from losses or damages. This interpretation often makes the difference between the words ‘you’re hired’ and ‘next.’”While matching a good employee to a good employer may seem simple, there are nearly one million unemployed veterans who prove this isn’t an easy employment nirvana. Military veterans often have unrealistic assumptions (either over-estimating their importance or under-estimating it); they disregard the education or certificate requirements to fill desired positions; or they simply ignore the intricacies of their next career choices. Often, veterans depart the military without understanding that they may need to take an initial position outside their preferred specialty, move to a location that supports their desired specialty, or take a position that initially does not pay as well. In the same vein, some civilian employers may judge all veterans by the actions of a few, ignoring that veterans come in a wide spectrum of flavors—some superb examples of their breeding and others… not. To solve this, veterans must develop new survival skills and civilian companies must learn some military jargon.And this is why Jim McKenna, the returning Editor-in-Chief of Rotor & Wing International, approached me about this column. I have had the unique opportunity of working within both the military and civilian aviation communities. I have assisted many transitioning veterans in finding positions outside the military, while also helping civilian companies discover the best prior-military talent available. But Jim didn’t hire me to tell my fellow military aviators that they’re the best or most qualified. I won’t. He also didn’t hire me to tell civilian companies that they should hire every veteran. They shouldn’t. He hired me to explain the importance of a military background, the advantages of it, and the dedication, devotion and responsibility that most military veterans display. I will explain how those veterans should translate their experiences, how to find and secure jobs, how to become un-institutionalized, and how to be the employee all companies want to hire. I also will help civilian employers learn to ‘speak military,’ find the best veterans, hire them and keep them. If you are a veteran considering transitioning to the civilian work force, a civilian company looking for quality employees, or if you simply are interested in the difficulties facing veterans making this transition, please keep following this column and comment on Twitter @rotorandwing or visit our webpage at www.aviationtoday.com/rw/. I will do my best to address all questions and concerns in future columns.