“This is America … a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.” — President George H.W. Bush, August 1988
“… each of us has a role to play, and all of us have something to contribute. He (Bush) didn’t call for one blinding light shining from Washington — he didn’t just call for a few bright lights from the biggest non-profits; but he called for a vast galaxy of people and institutions working together to solve problems in their own backyard.” —President Barack Obama, October 2009
This article is a call to action for recruiters to actively participate in assisting veterans to connect with the support and resources they need to build a career in the civilian workforce — one connection at a time through the 1,000 Recruiters of Light Project. Below is one such story which we hope connects with you and depicts our shared vision and inspires you to become involved.
Steve’s true story:
Last Tuesday night, I was lounging in a comfy club chair at the local Panera Bread with my sandaled feet up on an adjacent chair. It was a copacetic evening. The iced tea was perfect, and I was leafing through the barrage of daily emails that were left unopened from the day. An older man adorned with a U.S. Navy veteran’s jacket with a dour expression on his face started walking toward me; this fellow was not a happy camper and his low muttering mentioned something about my feet …
The place was nearly empty but he felt compelled to sit in the chair next to me. He expressed in a not-so-gentle-a-way that it was rude that someone would have their barely-covered feet up on a chair in a public place. He was angry in a way only someone with a real large chip on their shoulder is.
I could tell he was more hurt than angry — at no time did I raise my voice to escalate things. Here are some excerpts:
Navy: “I think it’s disgusting that someone would place their feet on chairs.”
Levy: “But I think I have nice feet; if they were gnarled and yellow I could understand, but look at these things.”
Navy: “I still think it’s disgusting and rude.”
Levy: “Sir, I’m sorry you feel this way, but I’ve been here for some time and at no time did the manager tell me to put my feet on the floor.”
After several minutes back-and-forth, I simply asked him why he was so angry; he told me he has been out of work for two years and could not get anyone to speak with him about a sales job. What a surprise!
Then I told him I was a recruiter and about my background working with people in the military. His demeanor eased.
For the next hour, I spoke to him about his career, what he has done in his search, what he likes to do for the simple joy of doing it — and I am sure he sensed that my interest was genuine. I introduced him to LinkedIn, reviewed his profile, and showed him how to join and use groups. I reviewed his resume and suggested changes based upon how hiring managers read resumes. We looked at several listed job opportunities. I explained to him how recruiters and hiring managers often think and act; this was all new to someone who truly believed that you must respond to HR and wait. We also shared stories about how tough it can be to be an older job seeker.
Looking back on this encounter one week later, I hope I helped him recognize how important his military service is and how he should be proud of it and highlight it — even if it did take place over 40 years ago. In reminding him to think positively and how to use the tools many job seekers should be using, a smile came to his face.
What this Navy veteran needed was someone who could mentor him as he navigated around the maze that has been created by industry and our profession — a massive field of corn stalks that in the minds of people often lead to nowhere and further exacerbate negative emotions. I believe in giving veterans a sense that recruiters do believe that one’s military service is not trivial; that job description buzzwords such as character, integrity, and motivation are not simply filler concepts that most interviewers are ill-prepared to assess.
While he hasn’t stopped calling since, his messages have not been rude or annoying; after all, he is a salesperson and he’s trying to sell himself. With my assistance — with your help — he’ll get the job he desires. And in the end he apologized for hating my feet.
Serendipity: “An aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.”
During a subsequent phone call later in the day with Rob, it simply popped out that if we could engage 1,000 recruiters — like President George H.W. Bush’s “thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky” — and attached each recruiter to a single veteran, as Rob wrote back to Todd Raphael, “think of the impact we could make.”
Think about what President Barack Obama said last year: “Each of us has a role to play, and all of us have something to contribute. [President Bush] didn’t call for one blinding light shining from Washington — he didn’t just call for a few bright lights from the biggest nonprofits; but he called for a vast galaxy of people and institutions working together to solve problems in their own backyard.”
Readers, think about how our industry — the “vast galaxy of people and institutions working together” — can use their time and talent to thank our veterans for their service with individual action and connection. Would you be willing to adopt and mentor a single veteran in need of assistance as they separate from active duty? Would you be willing to show them how to initiate and optimally use tools for their job search? Would you be willing to stand bytheir side?
This call to action stretches beyond the borders of America. It echoes across Canada, the United Kingdom, and all countries where soldiers go to war with no expectations upon their return. Let’s give them something they deserve: the opportunity to have a chance at success beyond the Armed Forces if they choose.
If you want to be part of the 1,000 recruiter movement, please join the 1,000 Recruiters of Light Facebook Fan Page. When you join, please add your picture to the Recruiters’ Photo album. More information including logistics will be posted there as we firm up the protocols. Let’s help veterans, one connection at a time.