“If you find yourself in a fair fight, you didn’t prepare for your mission properly” – Colonel David Hackworth (1930-2005)
For a transitioning veteran, the mission is often misunderstood.
Veterans train with rigor and intensity and often have deep channels of character, these are great reasons to hire a veteran, but they do not entirely prepare us for the initial mission.
Our initial mission is to establish our worth. There is nothing wrong with being aware that most companies have programs to hire veterans. The economics alone imply an increase in value based on perception.
I would argue the REALITY of a veteran’s value is substantially higher than we understand because of executive/leadership presence, integrity and grit…but regardless companies see us as VALUABLE/sought after, and that matters, humility will not pay your mortgage and get your children into the right schools.
It matters because most vets have put in more commitment and sacrifice than most people by the time they transition, and therefore SHOULD be rewarded based on their ability to contribute in a meaningful way.
#1 – Understand your value – I always think it is exciting to explain to someone transitioning into tech sales for example that they are generally worth $100,000-$225,000/year OTE (Base+Commission) once they have either done a sales training program (https://www.qualled.com/veterans) for one example I have personal experience I can speak to) or find a company with a sales training program that follows through (I am always happy to help veterans figure out if a company’s values align with their own, especially within any kind of sales). The point here isn’t to say we need to make six figures to be successful in our transition, but we should define what success means, and until we understand our actual worth, how can we be sure?
#2 – Values over Culture – If a company espouses culture talk too early/often it IS a red flag in my experience. The interview experience is intimidating even to disciplined warriors because it isn’t our home turf. Begin by INSPECTING WHAT YOU EXPECT, leverage LinkedIn and being a Veteran and ask BOTH current and former employees who were in similar roles or under the same leadership, and ask them how follow-through was on what they were promised. Our fellow brothers and sisters have been an UNBELIEVABLE resource I am endlessly grateful for. Without their transparency and moral courage, I would not have found the depth or breadth of opportunity I have. Ask honest questions, ASK ABOUT MONEY, ask about values, ask about follow-through, and ask what people there do when NO ONE IS WATCHING. A psychiatrist at a hospital I worked at once told me ‘Derek, you find out more in 1 minute watching someone who doesn’t know you’re looking, than 1 day when they are putting on a performance for you, whether they even realize it or not.’ Culture we are told to hear in their words, whereas values we objectively observe in their behavior. Study your interviewers.
#3 – NETWORK/GET UNCOMFORTABLE – No matter which field you choose, study them all. We all wish we got more comfortable more quickly in situations like massive change. It is also important to point out that transitions are a struggle naturally to anyone affected by PTS, so let’s BOTH look out for ourselves as we transition, and continue to reach out a hand as soon as we reach the top of that mountain. For those of you now transitioning, get out of your comfort zone, or regret not doing so later. That simple. You will reap MASSIVE rewards in many ways (financially included) by having a better understanding of the competitive landscape (with both candidates and companies).
The real takeaway here is to do your homework, start this work 6-12 months prior to transition if you want to maximize your opportunity, invest in yourself because you’ve proven your courage and have been through the fire, NOW TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. This is not intuitive to a veteran, but the company you’re interviewing with hires, trains, and pays TEAMS OF PEOPLE dedicated to convincing you to believe in their organization. They are better educated (or more specifically for this purpose), more informed, WAY MORE EXPERIENCED interviewing us than we are at being interviewed by them.
So…how do we overcome all of this? PREPARATION, NETWORKING, COLLABORATING.
Mock interviews, free resume reviews, join the transitioning veteran forums, Veteran Mentor Network has been an excellent resource in connecting fellow vets to supportive and successful people who will roleplay live interviews with you.
Get yourself to the top of the mountain with all of the tenacity and grit you’ve shown, and as soon as you do, reach back to lend a hand to whoever is next.
Derek Gawrys is a salesman, mentor, and veteran.