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Leadership Message to Donald Trump: Hire Veterans for Your New Administration

Nov. 23, 2016
Now is the perfect time for Trump to hire veterans for jobs for which they would be well suited, such as in the areas of defense, homeland security, foreign policy and veterans’ affairs.

President-elect Donald Trump is hiring, and there will be lot of open positions – at least enough to replace the approximately 3,800-plus Barack Obama appointees who will leave their jobs. As Trump assembles his Cabinet and new Administration, he has a chance to impress the nation and keep a campaign promise by hiring many American military veterans.

Max Stier, a national expert on federal workforce issues and presidential transitions, recently emphasized the need for the new president to have a very capable, highly skilled team “on the field from day one” and that they “have a game plan and they’re ready to go after they swear on the Bible.” Stier is president and CEO of the highly respected, bipartisan Partnership for Public Service.

Veterans of the armed forces would make great hires for Trump. Veterans have a proven skill set that includes analytical, logistical and operational expertise. They have proven leadership ability under harsh conditions, supervisory experience, and a resolve to succeed. Members of the armed forces have been taught to remain calm when things get rough. They are disciplined and have a strong work ethic. Their skills are ideally matched for many federal government jobs.

Other key reasons veterans make qualified candidates for the new federal jobs include:

  • Veterans understand how to work with diverse groups of people - Americans and foreigners from different cultures.
  • Veterans are consensus players who know that teamwork is essential for success.
  • Men and women in uniform have demonstrated ability for innovation, dependability, loyalty and risk-taking.
  • In many cases, veterans previously held jobs in numerous professions and industries before joining the military, acquiring invaluable skills.

Veterans also know how to adapt and overcome adversity –something Trump will need if he wants to enjoy a successful presidency with so many political and citizen opponents watching to see if he fails.

Trump will be filling Cabinet posts as well as scores of advisory positions (for example, agency director) plus many assistant jobs. Outside of the federal government, there are two principal reasons some veterans have had trouble finding civilian jobs: (1) too often a military resume doesn’t easily translate well into a civilian job description; and (2) many doing the hiring never served in the military so they can’t easily grasp what skills the veteran would bring to a given position.

Veterans know how to adapt and overcome adversity –something Trump will need if he wants to enjoy a successful presidency with so many political and citizen opponents watching to see if he fails
—Ritch K. Eich

Perhaps Vice President-elect Mike Pence could be a positive influence in connecting Trump to the military, as Pence’s son, Michael, is a U.S. Marine, even though his father never donned a uniform. Trump should also reach out to organizations like the Wounded Warriors Project’s Warriors to Work program for help transitioning qualified veterans to his team.

Now is the perfect time for Trump to hire veterans for jobs for which they would be well suited, such as in the areas of defense, homeland security, foreign policy and veterans’ affairs. The Secret Service also would also be a great home for ex-military personnel.

The question is whether the President-elect will look beyond his business pals and political loyalists. Trump lacks military experience and has relatively few friends in the defense world as far as anyone can tell.

So far, though, Trump has shown a willingness to hire a few folks with military background for top jobs. Controversial views notwithstanding, one of his first hires was Stephen Bannon, a businessman and chairman of the ultra-conservative Breitbart News website. Bannon is a former navy surface warfare officer who later served as a special assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon. Bannon has a master’s degree in national security studies from Georgetown University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

From my experience serving in leadership roles in four different industries and as a former enlisted sailor and navy officer, I have found that most newly minted MBAs or even those with a few years experience lack the real-world awareness and pragmatism that veterans possess. Most veterans are ready to hit the ground running when they join an organization. They are used to dealing with multiple challenges and moving at a fast pace. They understand their actions can mean the difference between life and death.

In my most recent book, Truth, Trust + Tenacity, I devote an entire chapter to lessons in leadership that can be learned from the armed forces. I discuss how military personnel are often expected to step up and take responsibility for their actions at a far younger age than those who enter the business world right from college. Veterans know that it takes courage to steer an organization through uncharted territory.  

Considering that Trump, Pence and Rudy Giuliani all received multiple deferments and never fought for their country, now is the opportunity for them to select qualified veterans for important roles in the government for which these deserving women and men sacrificed so much.

Ritch K. Eich, author, executive and retired Navy captain, is a management consultant in Thousand Oaks, Calif., whose leadership contributions have been recognized by many organizations. Proceeds from his three books have been donated to important non-profit organizations. Eich has served on more than a dozen boards of directors and trustees. His Ph.D is from the University of Michigan.

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