A Job for a Veteran or Spouse ≠ Success

Warning!  Do not break out the party hats when hiring a veteran or their spouse.  Certainly, the hiring of these people is worthy of mention and accolade, however, research indicates a troubled road ahead.  I for one hate to spoil a party but the celebration may be short-lived.  Many of them will find displeasure or misalignment with their new job.  According to Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, only one half of veterans will stay in their post military job over 1 year and 65% will leave that job within two years.  Not much to celebrate there. 

Veteran and military spouse hiring is gaining more attention and several organizations and companies have jumped on the bandwagon with programs that connect them to employment or educate them on entrepreneurship.  I see many a social media post celebrating the hiring of a veteran and or their spouse or an organization or company promoting its veteran and spouse hiring cause.  “Bravo!”, I say.  “Bring it on!”, but let’s shift some attention to the ugly facts which surface shortly after the celebration of a job offer and acceptance. 

Following the romance of a nice paycheck and a cool looking office building, many veterans and their spouses find that the extensive skills and experience they bring to organizations go unnoticed and untapped.  Many find poor leadership, lack of family inclusion and a vision, mission and cause to inspire them each day.  Few veterans and their spouses experience a recognition program, professional growth and performance counseling they became accustomed to while in service.  Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, they may find misalignment with their true passion.  There are few, if any transition programs which help veterans and spouses discover this true passion or calling and align it with employment.  Passion discovery is typically boiled down to a simple question, “what do you want to do next?”  This question gets its answer for sure, but is it authentic?  Perhaps the better question is “if money was not an issue and you could wake up tomorrow and do something truly fulfilling, what would that be?”  This question, if pondered appropriately, gets to something far more authentic.  I was fortunate in my Army leadership journey to have spent time on this question.  Prior to commanding an Army brigade, I attended a course which helped me determine my core purpose and passions.  I carried this discovery into my encore career.  Even with this self-awareness I still needed to revisit job-passion alignment to ensure I was making the right decision.  I got it wrong a few times.  Too many veterans miss this and, coupled with unfulfilling and uninspiring work environments, contribute to the statistics mentioned above. 

Those who assist veterans and their spouses in transition should view job-placement and hiring for what it is, a performance measure; an isolated event on a journey to achieve a greater effect.  This effect is veteran and spouse fulfillment and growth in an encore life and career.  Measuring and celebrating performance over effects happens to many organizations, including the military.  In Iraq and Afghanistan many units equated success to performance measures such as number of enemies killed, artillery rounds fired or raids conducted.  Not measured were the effects of creating a greater peace, the real purpose of waging war in the first place.   

Those who serve veterans and their spouses deserve applause for their efforts.  Their hearts are in the right place, yet they ought to spend more time and energy on passion discovery, job alignment, on-boarding and retention instead of cake and ice cream.  They ought to see job-placement beyond the ‘job’ to personal fulfillment and a smooth take off on an authentic journey.  Employers should view the hiring of a veteran and or their spouse as a journey which includes effective on-boarding, personal and professional growth, recognition, family inclusion and other programs and benefits veterans, indeed most people desire.  Employers should meet the challenge of establishing the best work environment they can, one which retains and grows these amazing people.  Let’s celebrate effects over performance and help these people discover their true ‘why’ before we rush them into jobs.  Let’s bring real success to the “hired a veteran or a military spouse” celebration. 

Rob Campbell