Last Wednesday, I went to recruitDC 2012 (full summary of the event at a later post) and the closing keynote speaker was Colonel David Sutherland. He discussed stories of himself and other veterans fighting at war and the struggle getting acquainted at home. It was probably one of the best keynote speeches I heard in a long time. Not a dry eye in sight during Col. Sutherland’s speech and motivated every recruiter to hire a veteran.
That being said, I think as recruiters (and HR) we should not focus on just hiring a veteran, but help them adjust to a “regular” life. The biggest challenge is not they fought in a war; it’s the aftermath when they get home. From explosions, fights, trauma, and others, what veterans need from us is be neighbors: strike up a conversation, take them to a restaurant, and go to an event.
The problem with veterans (and athletes in that matter) is we, as people, saw them on TV or live and we were in awe of their talents and dedication at what they do and we thought of them as superhuman (or untouchable). That label either makes people shy to go up to them or on the other side; it creates a big ego for a veteran or athlete to develop. Just look at last week with Curt Schilling‘s business. Schilling started a video game startup and was doing well, but there was no demand for his games and without a following, Schilling and his company are close to closing.
Another issue that both veterans and athletes share now these days is after it’s all over, we do they do afterwards? This is where the trauma, physically and mentally, kicks in. This is where family, friends, and neighbors are needed the most and some don’t get that help.
We need to start reaching out to them as people to get accustomed to a “regular” life. From there, we can build relationships, gain trust, and then we can help them transition into the workplace. Hiring a veteran is great, but befriend a veteran (or athlete) can go a long ways beyond the workplace.