Lessons for New Veteran Hires

Advice, Guidance, and Lessons Learned for Veterans from Veteran Program Leaders and Executive Sponsors


"Network, network, network! Be willing to shape and reshape your personal brand while understanding that brand and the tools used to represent it are not your humanity. In other words, don’t take offense if a meaningful civilian red-lines your résumé: The majority of the time they really are trying to help."

Gary Profit, former Senior Director of Military Programs at Walmart


"Two things:

  1. Thoroughly answer the question, ‘Who am I, or who do I want to be, outside of the uniform?’ This takes time and self-reflection. Do your homework.
  2. When you leave the military, depart both mentally and physically. Get out! Lean into your future and the opportunities it holds."

Brynt Parmeter, Senior Director, Non-Traditional Talent | Head of Walmart Military & Veterans Affairs


"Over the past 10 years, JPMorgan Chase has hired over 16,000 veterans. The firm recognizes that veteran talent contributes to business success and is proud to be the founding partner of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF)."

"While every member of the military receives basic combat training and may serve in harm’s way, roughly 80 percent of service members serve in functions and develop skills that are similar to those found in our organization, such as HR, finance, logistics, or technology."

"In the military, although it is not a guarantee that service members will always progress through their careers, there is a well-defined roadmap that outlines a strategy to navigate one’s career. This is not true of the corporate environment where progression and job opportunities come through a combination of personal performance and an individual’s ability to network and navigate open opportunities for advancement."

"Although the military does have a form of networking in its ranks, this is done within the backdrop of the well understood military rank structure and therefore tends to follow a very formal route. In the corporate setting, networking is done up, down, and across an organization’s hierarchy and is not encumbered by the military rank structure. Therefore, to be successful in the corporate environment, network, network, network and when all else fails, rely on your network."

Rhett Jeppson, JPMorgan Chase Military and Veteran Affairs (MVA) Team


"There is a focus on veteran recruiting at P&G because the military and P&G are seen as having very similar cultural components:

  • Both are mission-focused
  • Both value the ability to inspire and motivate teams
  • Both value the ability to overcome obstacles
  • Both involve understanding and implementing a superior’s intent
  • Success in both involves operating well under stress"

"Our affinity group activities are focused on five pillars, one of which is support of the Guard and Reservists. About 20 percent of them deployed last year, and many of them report that they received better support from P&G than they did from the military."

John Myers, Procter & Gamble Veterans Affinity Group Lead


"Veterans are an obvious talent pool to leverage, as they are eminently trained in leadership skills. Leadership skills are both invaluable and intangible."

"Amazon is very veteran-friendly. Going on drills is not an issue. We sponsor a Warrior Community that enables supporting processes for deployed reservists. We send care packages to deployed reservists while they are away, and we assure deployed members that there is a job awaiting them upon their return."

Beau Higgins, Senior Manager, Amazon Military Recruiting Center of Excellence | Worldwide Operations Talent Acquisition


"Veterans increase our productivity. Outcomes of our program have demonstrated tangible results at all levels. It has resulted in a very diverse workforce. Veterans can be the same age, same demographics as the rest of the work force, but they tend to get promoted more quickly because they tend to out-perform their non-military peers. Veterans tend to know what skill sets they want, and proactively seek out training or experiences that enable them. Tesla believes that the military is last bastion of skilled labor apprenticeship."

"Another purpose of the program is to provide the veteran meaning in their work, to ensure there is that dedicated mission match - much as they had in the military, to ensure they feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves, and to ensure that their families are getting the support they need."

"Tesla’s Veteran Employment Resource Group gives out veteran-themed t-shirts that employees can wear. Veterans can also choose to buy them online. The proceeds from these sales go back into Tesla veteran support efforts. A cherished reward is being allowed to take home a Tesla car overnight, which they do every so often."

"Tesla is a Silicon Valley company, and its ambiguous environment demands that its employees take control of themselves. For veterans, this means they can’t just be standing around waiting for orders. They need to break that habit. Tesla would prefer that if they see something, they should do something. They should respond to things and develop a ‘go do it’ attitude. Unlike the military, veterans don’t have to wait to get promoted. If they do well, they will advance. They need to better understand this and take advantage of the opportunity."

"The military develops character traits that translate well at Tesla. If veterans can continue to be in the right place, at the right time, in the right uniform, with the right attitude – they can excel and succeed at Tesla. Other valuable cultural traits that Tesla finds in its veteran hires are work ethic, drive, determination, high morals, and clean living (being drug-free)."

"What Tesla has found over time is that veterans are not a ‘plug and play’ asset. They require some period of adjustment in order to be fully functional. But they bring incredible raw talent that properly trained supervisors can mold. So, to enable an effective transition, we have found we needed to shift the mindset of supervisors, and train them on best practices for successfully engaging with veterans."

"Be flexible, be a sponge, and keep your ears open. Look for what’s right and improve upon how it is being done. Don’t come in as supervisor and throw your weight around. Learn from your subordinates. Take the time to understand the culture."

Dustin Whidden, former Tesla Veterans Program Manager


"Know and understand your value proposition and what gave you the competitive advantage over other candidates. The company hired you for a reason and there are many variables that made up that decision; i.e., qualifications, experience, leadership, culture fit, etc. Don’t rely solely on the fact that you are a veteran because you are now entering into a new environment and you must first assess the situation to gain a deep understanding of where the company is in its operational cycle and how you can contribute to its overall objectives and goals. Pay attention to the new culture and assimilate quickly. While it is important to find other veteran employees in the organization to help facilitate the transition, don’t unintentionally exclude non-veteran employees in the process. By associating only with veteran employees, you might come across as showing an unwillingness to adapt. Leverage these new relationships and build a positive brand and reputation within the company."

Marcus "Ohley" Ohlenforst, Military Talent Strategist, USAA Talent Acquisition


"The biggest thing veterans need to learn is how to properly sell themselves. This involves, in part, understanding that their military rank carries no weight in the civilian world. And so, for example, they should stop using it as their primary title on LinkedIn. Another example is that military retirees should be careful where and how they use the term ‘retired’. In the military, you could conceivably retire at age 38; but the perception in the civilian world is that retirees are in their sixties. One other observation is that the longer that military professionals are in the service, the harder it seems to be for them to make the transition."

"The perception of what veterans bring to the civilian work force is positive. They are seen as being able to troubleshoot problems and get the job done in spite of any obstacles encountered along the way. They are seen as having grit, determination, and many other positive character traits that enable them to succeed where many of their civilian peers fail. In making their transition to the civilian world, it is advantageous to veterans to demonstrate a history of those sorts of transferable character traits."

"Veterans need to understand need to put their veteran label aside and understand what will make them an appealing candidate. Demonstrate to the recruiters what you bring to the table."

"Although there exists a small group of veterans that feel entitled to senior roles upon transition, that group tends to be vocal and tends to leave a very negative perception with civilian employers. All veterans should realize that upon leaving the service, it is time to move on blend in with the 99% of the population that they are targeting."

Nick B. Tran, Manager, Community and Veteran Affairs at Schlumberger


"Some veterans have a hard time understanding that their rank does not translate to the civilian world. They have to realize, and take into consideration with their new leadership style, that most civilian employees will not respond to the approaches they found successful in the military. For example, they may find that some civilian employees are not focused on the same goal they that are. Most civilians will have their own motivations at play as well. Civilian workers are a diverse bunch. Some are drivers, some are followers, some don’t care. Whereas the military has all employees follow the same policies, which tends to drive a culture of like-minded people, there is much more diversity of thought in the civilian world. And veterans must learn to adjust."

"Be willing to move for work, as the available jobs aren’t always where you are currently living. And be a sponge upon being hired. You should humble yourself sufficiently to learn what you don’t know. Be open to having people show you the way – even people that might be younger. This will help you assimilate more quickly; and the faster you assimilate into the culture of the organization, the better."

Chris Newton, Workforce Development Manager at Cajun Industries


"Be humble. Lose your rank. Be willing to put in the work and learn. Veterans need to understand that very few jobs in the civilian world need an Infantryman’s specific skill set. Veterans have great traits that people need, but they have to be willing to accept starting from the bottom again and learn a new craft. Also, they should know that it’s better to apply in person. They should seek out companies that are actively seeking vets, and they should have an idea of what they want to do after they transition."

"Start putting feelers out several months prior to your ETS [End of Time in Service]. Job requirements are always changing."

David Theriot, Military Workforce Development at Performance Contractors


"Do your homework! Just as you did in the military, make sure you conduct rehearsals prior to stepping in front of a civilian interviewer (and you should consider all civilians as interviewers). Do your research on both organizations and the individuals with whom you will come into contact. This ‘preparation of the battlefield’ will serve you well.

Come in with open mind and a willingness to learn. While you undoubtedly have a lot to provide any organization, you must first humble yourself sufficiently to learn a new culture, a new organization, and a new role.

Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions but be careful in how your phrase those questions. Consider starting any question with the phrase, "Help me understand…." And when the recipient provides a response, ensure you use the advice provided.

Early on in your tenure, find a ‘sweet spot’ where your unique skill set adds value. This effort doesn’t necessarily need to be within the scope of your role. In doing so, you will quickly see how your individual effort can contribute to the overall goals of the organization. Such ‘early wins’ are important in building momentum at a personal level.

If you find early on that your initial role is less than a perfect fit, speak up. Your skills will likely still be a great fit elsewhere in the organization. The Veterans Initiatives group and Human Resources will work to identify alternate roles where you may be able to better flex your skills."

James Beamesderfer, Vice President, Veterans Initiatives, Prudential, and Alicia R Alston, VP, Global Communications, Prudential


"Before separation, military members must understand the truth: transition is hard. You must plan for it, just like any other mission you’ve done in the military.

We believe veterans should start planning their transition from the military at least a year prior to their ETS. That plan should consider all dimensions of their personal needs: employment, finances, education, housing, health care, etc. Moreover, this plan should purposeful; don’t ‘wing it.’

Furthermore, we would advise transitioning veterans to not seek employment for the sake of simply ‘getting their foot in the door’ or replacing lost income. Those are red flags to us. This results in that employer being a stepping stone to another employer and another job. We would encourage veterans to actively seek what they want. For example, if the individual desires to be an attorney, he or she should plan on attending law school. They should first figure out what they need to do to get to where they want to go. Critical to knowing what they want to do is conducting an honest self-assessment to identify their strengths and weaknesses and understanding how those fit in the organization that may be of interest.

We would encourage veterans to speak to as many people in their industry of interest as they can. In doing so, they should seek a mentor. Sources for this research would include Veterati, American Corporate Partners, and LinkedIn. They should research veterans at organizations in which they may have an interest, as well as the organization itself.

Finally, we would encourage veterans to have a laser focus when applying for available roles. Not only must they know and be able to articulate what they want to do, they must reflect this in a tailored résumé."

Harris Morris, Senior Director of Veterans Initiatives, Vice Chair of Military Business Resource Group at ADP

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