Image of an employee who is a veteran working at a standing desk in an office.

How Veterans Can Enhance Your Nonprofit’s Mission and Organizational Efficiency

In the U.S. alone, approximately 200,000 people transition out of the military every year. As a veteran myself and the San Francisco Lead of the Veterans Employee Resource Group (ERG) at LinkedIn, I have seen veterans transition into an enormous variety of roles across countless industries—bringing a wealth of benefits to the organizations that hire them. But in the nonprofit and for-profit worlds alike, the potential of this vast and diverse group remains largely untapped: one in three veterans (33%) are underemployed, and veterans are 70% more likely than other candidates to take a step back in seniority when entering the civilian workforce.

What’s more, the number of veterans in C-level positions has declined dramatically over the years. In 1980, 59% of large, publicly held corporations were helmed by people who had served in the military. By 2013, when many World War II and Korean War Veterans had retired, that number had dropped to just 6.2%. 

Veterans can bring a different approach to problem-solving, and they should be factored into every organization’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DIB) strategy. For nonprofits in particular, veterans’ sense of duty and commitment to serving a cause greater than themselves make them a natural fit for philanthropic work. To increase the success and efficiency of your organization as a whole, here are a few steps you can take to attract, hire, and retain talented candidates from military backgrounds.

Recognize the unique skills and perspectives that veterans can bring to your organization—and what you can offer them

There are countless benefits to hiring veterans beyond their sense of service and duty. For one thing, military personnel are taught to make high-quality decisions fast, even under pressure and with limited information. This is a critical skill for organizations navigating change and uncertainty. The military also trains for Managerial Responsibility and Leadership, by taking people who are often fresh out of high school with limited experience and putting them in charge of not only highly expensive equipment, but also life and death decisions which affect those around them. In the process, service members also gain exposure to people, cultures, and ways of thinking that the average civilian has never encountered, broadening their mindset, and making them well-equipped to support diverse communities.

Since veterans come from every walk of life and all over the world, these candidates can often contribute to the diversity of your organization across multiple dimensions. But in order to successfully attract and hire veterans, you need to clearly articulate why your organization will be a good fit for them, so be sure to emphasize your mission and the meaningful work that they’ll be doing every day. 

Ensure common biases and misconceptions about veterans do not impact your hiring decisions

While veterans can bring a lot of value to nonprofits, there are certain misconceptions about them that can make it harder for these candidates to get hired. Unpacking these biases and misconceptions with your hiring team is essential if you want to create a level playing field on which all candidates can compete.

Part of the problem is the fact that many people’s perception of veterans is shaped solely by media portrayals, which tend to fall into one of two buckets—aggressive or broken—neither of which is representative of the vast majority of veterans. While it’s an unfortunate truth that some do live with varying degrees of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS), this does not define them as veterans, nor does it prevent many from contributing meaningfully to the workforce, so it is important to leave these stereotypes at the door. There’s also a misconception that, because military personnel are trained to do things in a very specific way, they are somewhat rigid in the way they operate. To the contrary, veterans come from an environment where things are constantly changing. Do not rule a candidate out because you think they will not be compatible with your organization’s processes or culture, because chances are, they will either embrace those processes—or help you make them better.

Build deeper understanding by speaking to other veterans at your organization or in your personal life

Upon leaving the military, veterans typically receive training to help them enter or re-enter the civilian workforce. But there may still be occasions where you run across a promising resume from a veteran that you just cannot decipher. In veteran advocacy, this is known as the civilian-military divide: a gap in knowledge and understanding between those who have served in the military and the general public, especially when it comes to things like military job titles and the work that they entailed.

In these situations, the best thing you can do is speak to another veteran, whether it’s someone on your team, members of a veteran-focused ERG at your organization, or a friend or family member. Ask them to talk through the resume with you and explain any military jargon. Alternatively, you could just call the candidate. Giving veterans the space to tell their stories in their own words can often help you get a better sense of who they are and what they could bring to your organization—while showing them that you’re committed to walking the walk when it comes to hiring veterans. 

Leverage LinkedIn Solutions to engage, hire, and retain veterans

Today, there are over 3 million U.S. veterans on the platform. With an additional 200,000 service members separating every year, LinkedIn is the perfect place to identify and engage with veterans who might be interested in joining your organization and contributing to your important mission. 

With LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, you can create targeted recruitment ads that show why your nonprofit is the perfect place for transitioning service members to apply their talents—and with LinkedIn Recruiter, you can easily identify veterans with the right skills for the roles you’re looking to fill. Your team can also use LinkedIn Learning to augment its knowledge and understanding of this talent pool; this course on Recruiting Veterans is a great starting point, sharing tips for recruiting, onboarding, and retaining veterans. And for more resources and information about how LinkedIn can help your nonprofit hire veterans, check out our dedicated page today.

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