More organizations like Hiring Our Heroes are joining in to help those in active-duty transition from the military to a sustainable career. In fact, that’s how I found my job as a market development and policy manager at SunPower. And while these organizations are often very helpful, there are a few things companies can do to diversify their workforce with veterans.
But before I list those off, it’s important to have a little background first. When it comes to transitioning to a new job from the military, there’s some anxiety involved. It’s true that service members are exposed to challenges like the constant threat of relocation, separation from family and friends and the risk of life and limb. But, remove these elements and military life can be fairly straightforward.
First, we are essentially told what we’re going to do and where we’re going to do it. There is no need to touch up our resumes when seeking out our next billet.
Second, our career tracks are basically spelled out for us. We can deviate from time to time, but abuse of this luxury comes at the peril of one’s upward mobility and access to the next rank.
Finally, there is normally access to comfortable housing and additional means to support our cost of living. Even if housing can’t be found on base, we can usually find accommodations outside of the base that provide a moderate standard of living. Stepping away from the certainty of such creature comforts can be daunting.
So, how can companies like SunPower remove some of the complexity and uncertainty for service men and women entering into the uncharted territory of civilian life?
Showcase the Benefits
It starts with the acknowledgment and education of service members on the multitude of opportunities your company can provide. For example, an adequate Paid Time Off (PTO) policy is highly attractive. Uniformed personnel rate 30 days of leave and liberty every year with the option of rolling over 60 days of unused time. Members rarely exercise all their time off, but the option is important, especially in times of family emergencies or crisis. And then there are benefits like a matching retirement plan and stock options. Also, while health, dental and vision care are accessible on base to those in uniform, access to more comfortable off-base care is sometimes accompanied by layers of red tape.
Be Intentional with Training
Keep in mind that service members specialize in being trainable. One can’t go through a four-year or twenty-year military career without jumping into a job with little to no turnover and arbitrary tasks and objectives. If companies can provide training or allow time for service members to figure out the requirements in the job, then employers will likely be satisfied with the long-term investment.
Implement Collaboration and Teamwork
Don’t forget to play into the team aspect. Many people join military service to be part of something bigger than themselves. That’s why many service members are finding jobs within the solar industry. I’ve seen firsthand how SunPower promotes that team construct.
For example, I have been able to take on projects that require cross-department interaction and cooperation, which undoubtedly helps me understand the multiple dimensions of the company and the industry. If veterans are trying to enter into a new and unfamiliar industry, there should be openings for growth and team environments foster this. The team teaches us more about ourselves than we could ever learn on our own.
Emphasize the Mission
Finally, presenting the bigger picture will give service members the opportunity to embrace their new career as another way to serve. I personally find that working in solar power has benefits far outreaching the borders of our country. The industry doesn’t only provide consumers a means to generate their own energy, but freedom from the reliance on fossil fuels and the potential to save money. Whether we want to admit it or not, this planet has limited resources. Tapping into renewable energy sources like the sun has unlimited potential. I find that this is a service worth passing on to future generations.
As military service members seek out the next chapter in their lives, they will look for companies that replace some of the unknown with meaning and stability. Veterans often bring to their new jobs the skills and characteristics they have developed during active duty. Companies that see the value in this firsthand will have loyal, committed and hardworking team members that can be counted on day in and day out.