Whenever I receive a resume of a former serviceman or woman for review, it’s a special opportunity. Why? Because I know from my own military experience that veterans gain a unique set of skills while serving that may not immediately jump off the page. I have the special opportunity to dig deep and consider how their military experiences can be applied in our business.
As a director of talent, learning and organization development, I currently am responsible for cultivating talent, improving how people learn on the job and instilling large organizational changes at Panasonic. This originally was not what I had in mind for a career path years ago, and I’m sure my younger self would be surprised to see where I landed.
I spent much of my formative years as a flight engineer – 24 years to be exact. Twenty-one years active duty in the Marine Corps and three years in the Air Force Reserve. I was responsible for fixing, flying, and teaching all over the world, helping marines, sailors, and airmen seek qualifications and certifications in aviation. I recall a number of moments while in the service that helped me grow as an individual and as a professional, and I was truly committed to my service, until an injury forced me to stop flying. While unexpected, this presented a new opportunity for me. I began working in talent management and organization development for the military. From there, I transitioned to a similar role in the private sector.
As a retired Marine, I’ve made it a point to focus on hiring and elevating veterans. Not only do I have the utmost respect for the men and women who have sacrificed so much to protect our nation – which in itself speaks volumes to their values and dedication to a cause – I also understand the kind of skills veterans can offer organizations. From their flexibility to work in any location to their teamwork mentality, I see hiring veterans as a crucial element in the success of any organization.
When evaluating prospective employees who have served, consider their role and responsibility while in the military, what new skills had to be acquired to succeed in that position, the types of environments they had to adjust to, and what they had to overcome to complete any given assignment. A few skills and characteristics unique to veterans that I’ve noticed while working in talent acquisition are:
- Teamwork – The military teaches members to put difference aside in pursuit of a bigger goal. To complete a mission, service men and women must work together as a team to get the job done.
- Accountability – the military creates a sense of ownership in what should be accomplished and in what capacity. As a result, servicemen and women typically are willing to take calculated risks to complete a task. This translates well for companies that embrace speed and innovation to try something new, whether it’s new policies and procedures or processes.
- Flexibility – military personnel are used to moving every couple of years, adapting to new environments and working from any location. This opens them up to new opportunities, without being restricted by changes around them.
When I think about exemplary veterans at Panasonic, two immediately come to mind. Jillian Hall served in the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard as a personnel actions specialist, where she earned the badge of “sharpshooter.” Her unique experience provided her with a valuable lesson that has stayed with her even after her military service had ended: she learned to be resilient, flexible and to never give up in finding creative solutions to solve a problem. Today, she keeps a sharp eye on the market research efforts for Panasonic’s Automotive Systems business, helping resolve complex business challenges.
For Alex Smith, the U.S. Navy introduced him to a career in technology, providing him with on-the-job training as an electrical engineer. After completing his service in the Navy, he entered the workforce with an associate’s degree in electrical engineering bringing with him technical training, hands-on experience and a sense of what working as a team could really accomplish. Today, he works on the design and development of infotainment systems and heading up the software stability group for one of our largest automotive customers.
Both Jillian and Alex embody how nontraditional work experience can be applied to any job at any corporation. Their goal driven mentality and sense of dedication and commitment to the company and their position shows the value veterans can bring to today’s workforce.
Organizations can further support veterans by providing leadership opportunities in their roles, as well as hands on learning and development sessions. This helps engage veterans, creating a sense of purpose and accountability in their new role, and arming them with the right corporate tools to transition and take on the next opportunity.
I’m proud of my time serving in the military and the opportunities it’s presented to me – especially being able to meet and elevate other veterans.
Jim Stefanchin is director of talent, learning and organization development, Panasonic North America.