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The simple case for hiring veterans

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    Sept. 28, 2012: Karl Hagstrom, left, of the Stapleton Group talks to veterans about his agency during a job fair introducing veterans to careers in the security and private investigations industry at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP)

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As my company spearheads software training for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, I am asked, “What can veterans offer a company?”

There are many answers. 

Veterans can handle themselves in a myriad of environments. They are professional, and accustomed to working in a team setting. 

Vets have leadership capabilities that can effortlessly transfer over to the civilian workplace.

But if this is all true, why does the unemployment rate for returning heroes hover around 30%?

We’re not blind to the damage the sluggish economy has done to millions of working Americans. We have lost a lot of jobs to foreign markets via off-shoring. Civilians are surrounded by this, and other bad news, on a daily basis.

Hiring a veteran gives you a natural-born problem solver, who is most concerned with the ‘mission’—the goal that the employer has set out to achieve..

But veterans, fresh from deployment, have been out of the loop. Service members who have spent the last year of their life far away from home may find themselves out of touch with the job market when they finally return. 

They don’t know what employers are looking for, which job skills in which markets are in demand and which ones are flooded. 

When asked, many veterans are not able to translate their service occupation into a civilian resume.

With dozens of organizations pitching in to help out-of-work veterans, one would think that every corporation would be putting their best foot forward. Some of these efforts, however, are in vain. 

Veterans have high turnover rates when they finally do land a job, and the ugly reality of post-service health concerns—such as PTSD—blanket these warriors with a heavy stigma.

So what do vets have to offer employers looking for talent? The answer is plenty—more than anyone realizes.

I’ll use the team we trained at my company as an example. The first component of our ‘boot camp’ integrates basic computer savvy with more professional-level software analysis. 

As the group started to move towards highly specialized material, they produced a series of virtual notecards to assist future training cycles with the subject matter that was most difficult to grasp. These ‘flashcards’ are very similar to ones used by troops studying for promotion within military ranks.

This was not part of the curriculum. Creating the flashcards, overseeing their application in the training process, this all was something the team did on their own. 

They collaborated with one another and produced study materials to aid our trainees in the months and years to come, taking into account that not all of the trainees have the same learning curve. 

Our trainees come from different services, with backgrounds ranging from infantry to logistics to military police.

This is the case for hiring veterans. They can see things other employees cannot (or things others would refuse to see.) 

Hiring a veteran gives you a natural-born problem solver, who is most concerned with the ‘mission’—the goal that the employer has set out to achieve. 

That person will take whatever route is open to them for success without anyone ‘telling them’ to do it. They are not afraid to challenge the status quo. And perhaps most importantly, these individuals will act with selfless intent.

In a perfect world, the welfare of returning troops would be a top priority. We don’t live in a perfect world. 

We as a nation must not lose sight of what these amazing young people have to contribute to society. 

What is asked of veterans requires great courage and fortitude. They deserve the strength and support of their citizens in return.

Karen Ross is the CEO of Sharp Decisions, an award-winning consulting firm recognized by Crain’s New York as one of the largest woman-owned companies in NYC. Sharp Decisions’ V.E.T.S. Program is a private initiative to place veterans in tech jobs across the country.