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Overcoming Stereotypes about Transitioning Military

10 Feb 2010 9:27 PM | Anonymous

By Don Orlando

It’s natural to assume the high esteem in which the public holds the military today should give transitioning military clients an edge. It does…but three, persistent stereotypes held by hiring officials about veterans dull that advantage. These stereotypes have persisted for years, at least as long as we’ve had the all-volunteer force. Before the end of the draft, one in four Americans either had served on active duty or had an immediate family member who served. The ratio is 1 in 400 today.

Most people’s view of military life comes from the entertainment industry. Many transitioning military aren’t even aware of these stereotypes. When I list them, veterans are astounded by what they see as laughable perceptions. Since they do exist, let me introduce you to the major ones.

“Military people don’t have to think.” They just give and take orders. While that may have been true 60 years ago, it just isn’t so today. I think I am typical because, in my twenty six years on active duty as a commissioned officer, I gave precisely one direct order. Our military members are smarter than they have ever been. They insist on understanding how they contribute to the mission.

“Military folks always have unlimited resources.” If only that were true. Doing more with less is a phrase that came from the uniformed services first. 

“Military people don’t understand profit and loss.” It astounds civilians to learn that military organizations buy and sell goods and services to other military organizations. And I suspect not many civilian managers could survive the constant evaluation senior officers and NCOs get in their ability to manage every kind of resource.

For career professionals, our challenge is to counter those stereotypes, not just in the resume, but in the cover letter and social network profiles we help build.

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