10 Reasons Why Veterans Make Great Employees

By Julie Rains on 11 November 2008 4 comments
Photo: Julie Rains

Over the past few years, I have had the privilege of working with military veterans and active duty personnel who anticipate, are in the process, or have already transitioned to the civilian world. Some job descriptions line up with their military credentials: a helicopter pilot making evacuations in Baghdad might find similar work with a law enforcement agency stateside; ditto for a technician who is searching for a mechanic’s position. But others may have incredibly valuable skills that aren’t recognized in the private sector. And, like many job seekers, the language of their current or most recent employers may be misinterpreted by those who screen candidates and make hiring decisions. Based on my experiences with military personnel, here are attributes that veterans often have and that make them great employees.

1) Understanding that actions and behaviors reflect on the organization
Military personnel, like other public servants, are always under scrutiny whether on a mission, back at the base, or on leave. They seem to understand that everything they do and say reflects on the integrity and reputation of the organization.

2) Cross-cultural skills
Our military personnel have the opportunity to interact with people of many countries. They might supervise local contract employees on base, conduct medical evacuations, or provide resources in humanitarian missions. Our veterans also have had the opportunity to work alongside others from all over the United States, providing them with knowledge of diverse cultures within our own country. 

3) Innovation
I get the impression that many hiring managers may not always grasp that veterans may actually be more, rather than less, innovative in their thinking than non-veterans. Just as in the private sector, there are many opportunities for improving processes and results. In some cases, being in the field requires adapting to uncertain or changing circumstances, not being able to receive assistance from back-up teams, which further develops innovative thinking.

4) Ability to create something where nothing existed before
It took a while for one of my clients to explain to me what implementing “life support” systems in a previously undeveloped area meant. I finally realized that he directed the development of an infrastructure to house, feed, and take care of the basic needs of thousands of people. And, at some point, I understood that his logistical skills consisted not only of accessing supply chain resources but, more significantly, creating the supply chain. 

5) Presentation skills
Many veterans, especially those who became officers, have excellent presentation skills. Some have fielded inquiries from Congressional representatives; others have spoken before senior executives (such as a Four-Star General). Delivering accurate information and being clear in meaning are both critical.

6) Quick Thinking
Missions and field exercises require leaders to quickly analyze situations, continuously process new and changing information, and make sound decisions. They have often received training on certain techniques, such as maneuvering a helicopter in a dust storm with no visibility, but real-world scenarios with life-or-death consequences can help hone focused thinking aligned with quick action under pressure.

7) Desire to re-use and recycle
More than one of my clients has mentioned that he or she was able to conserve resources by sharing inventory (equipment, supplies) with other facilities. In one case, he redistributed parts to sites worldwide; in another, she claimed serviceable but unneeded equipment from a nearby site. 

8) Preparedness and flexibility
Readiness for deployments or impromptu operations plays a central role in many military job descriptions. Making sure that equipment is operating correctly and that supplies are ready allows responsiveness to organizational needs. And, understanding that uncertainty is the norm yields flexible employees.

9) Insight into how their actions impact other people
Doing a good job doesn’t mean just getting a good performance review, it means that fellow soldiers are as safe as possible and that critical missions are successful: the cargo plane with military troops is loaded properly; the helicopter that is transporting the critically wounded will respond to pilot controls, etc.

10) Demonstrated commitment to the greater good
Our veterans have shown that they have put themselves in danger to protect our freedom. Being able to sacrifice personal reward for greater, collective good is often a valuable asset.

There are even more skills, such as project management, purchasing, and team leadership skills, that our veterans possess. I have listed 10 that made the deepest impression on me. 

Note: I have provided résumé services for veterans and learned about their roles through discussions of their job duties. I am not a veteran.

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Guest's picture

Dear Julie -

What terrific points you make! Veterans are very skilled at working as a team and have the ability to stay calm in a pressured work environment. Their life experiences are truly valuable assets in the civilian world. I am on the board of directors of a non-profit organization that assists vets interested in pursuing careers in the fire service - an excellent fit with all of the skills you mentioned above. Thank you for helping to get the word out about hiring vets!


Kris Lord
Boots to Boots

Guest's picture
A. Dawn

Good observation. If I ever need to hire someone, I will consider hiring a veteran.
A Dawn Journal

Guest's picture

I currently do work at a VA hospital, many of the employees and volunteers at the hospital are veterans themselves. And though like all things there are exceptions, I personally can vouch for these qualities and can honestly say that I have been shocked at the kindness and devotion they exhibit when they do anything.

Even those who occasionally have a bout of bitterness (often rightly entitled to them) have gone above and beyond simply because they want to or think those they are helping deserve it.

Guest's picture

One of the most interesting people to return to our small town is a Marine vet. He has personally initiated several large scale community events. "To give back to the community", he says. This includes all the details of permission to use borough or private properties, lining up participants, funding, publicity. He has also opened several small shops to help revitalize our downtown. A think outside the box visionary with an ability to tackle details. He freely attributes the skills he has to his military stint.