The Big Meetup – Busting Veteran Stereotypes

“Veterans”

* In Australia, the term veteran is ‘defined as a person who has served , or is serving, as a member of the Permanent Forces or as a member of the Reserves’ (Australian Veterans’ Recognition Bill 2019).

Close your eyes and think of the images that come to your mind when you think of the term veterans.

Was the image you visualised something like this?

Did you think of a 25-year-old female with an engineering degree who has a service-related disability, which although prevents them from being deployed to warzones, they are perfectly capable of working across many sectors in civilian employment?

Or, the 28-year-old, who didn’t have a clear idea of what they wanted to do when they first left school, but has now identified their life long career development passion, which resulted in a career pivot and taking them along another career pathway outside of the military environment?

What about the 50-year-old whose life circumstances have changed, and they are keen to utilise their experiences and transferrable skills in other endeavours?

In Australia, currently there are a number of military members transitioning from the Australian Defence Force (ADF) after the 4 – 5 years’ service point, which would place them in the age range of 22 – 30 years old. There is of course others who transition after various other years of service, both voluntary and involuntarily.

Recently, a friend who is a veteran, and I took the opportunity on our day off (as you do, and be slightly upset that you know you are getting old when you are no longer asked to produce ID, lol) to attend on our own behalf, ‘The Big Meet Up’ career expo in Melbourne for graduates. We relished the opportunity to discuss with representatives across a vast array of various industries / opportunities including;

  • Hospitality
  • International internships
  • Finance
  • Cosmetics / wellbeing
  • Construction
  • IT and Cybersecurity
  • Rail transportation / construction
  • Freight and logistics
  • Education
  • Government – Environmental divisions

about the stereotypes of “who” a veteran is, and opening communications about changing the narrative to embrace veterans as part of their organisation’s diversity and inclusion policies and processes.

It was refreshing to see some people take genuine interest and show inquisitiveness about stereotype myths, combined with a growth mindset of how they could envisage the transfer of skills, knowledge, values and experiences that veterans could bring to their organisation and enhance their future of work capabilities. Some didn’t realise the broad breadth of trade / roles involved that make up the combined tri-services of the ADF (yes there are more trades and roles than “just driving a tank” or “running around out in the field in combat situations”).

I found it interesting that many people we spoke to, genuinely had not considered that currently serving military personnel who are planning their transitions, or veterans who have transitioned, could also be students. It was great to hear on the other hand, that some organisations would be welcome to embracing of potential candidates who have studied via either the Higher Education and/or vocational guidance/training pathways. This is welcoming to see acceptance of recognition that both learning pathways have strengths.

I appreciate people’s honesty when they acknowledge that they had not considered veterans as being a diverse group, but were open to seeing the importance of including veterans into their diversity and inclusion policies and processes.

Sadly, the recognition and inclusion of veterans as a diverse group needs much more work, not only here in Australia but also globally. As the world of work now and into the future is progressively becoming a global workforce, it is my passion to work towards ensuring stereotypes surrounding veterans are broken down and this diverse group is recognised / included in the recruitment and career development process of organisations. I’m hoping the upcoming Invictus Games to be held in Hague and followed by Düsseldorf, will help to continue raising awareness and breaking down of stereotypes.

Imagine how empowering it would be to have a section on application / onboarding forms for veterans to identify they are part of a unique diverse group, and for recruiters / hiring managers to see this as a strength and not a barrier to sustainable careers.

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