"I struggled to assimilate to civilian life after I returned home from serving three military deployments"
by Jared Baker, special operations center manager at Shape Security
I struggled to assimilate to civilian life after I returned home from serving three military deployments. I had plenty of experience, but I didn’t know how to explain my qualifications in terms an employer would understand. After all, how do you tell a potential employer that your skills hunting down IEDs in Afghanistan make you a great fit for an enterprise team?
But when I found cybersecurity, it was a perfect fit. There, I discovered the skills and training I acquired in the military naturally translated to the requirements of the cybersecurity industry. For instance, cybersecurity never stops—it’s a 24/7, 365 days-a-year operation—and it felt very similar to my “hours” in the military. Plus, cybersecurity relies on “defense-in-depth,” and it’s the same mindset of being on active duty and having to think of multiple ways to protect yourself. Cybersecurity gave me all the benefits of an office job and the thrills of defensive strategy without the danger of seeking out and surviving in a combat zone.
But most veterans don’t consider careers in tech. They often assume that their career options after service are limited to roles that seem most like the military, primarily in law enforcement.
To help bridge this gap, these are the three main things I suggest employers do to recruit veterans:
- Actively seek them out.
There’s a strong likelihood that veterans aren’t even considering your company. Find local college recruitment programs and 501c3s that specialize in veteran job placement, and lean on them to help. There are plenty of organizations and state-sponsored programs that were created to help veterans transition to civilian life, and they’re often the missing link between employers and former military. Most universities even have veteran centers on campus that help veterans fill out university paperwork, and these programs are worth contacting for recruitment collaboration.
- Stop requiring a college degree.
Many tech companies have already stopped requiring college degrees, but the lack of a degree is still a barrier preventing veterans from applying to jobs outside their comfort level. Take a holistic view of applicants and consider the real-world experience veterans gain from service. Some veterans do have a college degree, but most have spent their time serving in the military instead of sitting in a classroom. That’s not a negative, it’s just a different type of education.
Recruiting veterans may require education of both the veterans themselves and of others in your organization. Highlight how discipline in the field is a tremendous asset to the discipline required for the ever-shifting tech landscape. Plus, veterans are natural leaders who are used to leading teams from ideation to deployment. Instead of just performing tasks, veterans will anticipate future needs and meet them.
This might seem like it takes far more effort than just placing an ad on a job listing website. Maybe that’s true, but it’s well worth the extra work. Each veteran I’ve hired has been exemplary, especially in demonstrating the following qualities:
- Dedication to the mission – When I tell veterans they’re going to be working four 10-hour shifts and may have to work on weekends and holidays, they don’t bat an eye. Not only will they complete whatever tasks I give them, they’re also adept at anticipating the needs of the organization. It’s the very definition of going above and beyond the call of duty.
- Timeliness – I’ve never had a veteran employee be late on an assignment or be late to work. There’s never an issue with unreliability. The veterans I’ve hired have been among my most trustworthy hires.
- Discipline – In active duty, discipline means saving lives and completing the mission. In cybersecurity, discipline means defending customer information and protecting the organization. Veterans are disciplined in every scenario, and they’re intrinsic to the success of my team.
Veterans also deserve our help. They don’t deserve to successfully complete service in the military and then return to subpar employment opportunities or jobs that put them in harm’s way. Their training and expertise should be utilized for the benefit of the country and for the benefit of the private sector.
The most qualified applicants for your company may well be veterans. Make recruiting them a priority and discover how their discipline, dedication and perseverance transform your organization.