Finding Employee’s Other Qualifying Factors, Part II

Sections of this topic
    There was only one problem: my experience had been with the military.

    As you can tell from the title, this is Part II of my previous blog on the subject.

    In our search or finding good employees for qualified people, we need to look beyond the direct hiring application and see if there are other qualities or experiences that a new person might bring to the company even if they need to be trained to do the specific job. Once trained they will more than complement the company workforce; they will enhance it. This can be accomplished by Human Resources screening, or simply by seeking certain qualities–success indicators and providing company training to provide specific job training.

    It seems we do the opposite in looking for the perfect job fit, then we add in the company fit factor and expect immediate success. In fact, in Training and Development, we often try to bring out or discover the same success qualities in those already on staff–those hired long ago under different circumstances. Why not look at some employees (we already do for key employees like CEOs or Presidents) as having “more” –as in that more than what the job calls for–special talents we may be able to use in the future? Workers actually appreciate someone noticing they have other talents than what specifically they were hired for. Just ask them.

    I’m sure many qualified workers have gone through what I did nearly 25 years ago. I was a well-trained and educated public affairs officer with an excellent record, a master’s degree with post-graduate journalism courses, award-winning writing samples, and an increasingly responsible service. There was only one problem: My experience was in the military. The fact it was considered the “least military” of the services and the most professional in the field of public affairs made no difference.

    I had left the service early so I wasn’t even of retiring age (which can be late 30s in the military) so I was hardly an old man. I felt I was infinitely more qualified than many coming fresh out of school, but other factors made it difficult. There were other issues as well, and they made sense–even to me, but it still didn’t help the fact I needed a job and I was well-qualified.

    1. The global misconception is that anyone involved in the military cannot relate to the civilian world of business.
    2. Those who might hire the military, looked for women with less experience to fill the expected managerial void for women. Of course, it came with a glass ceiling, but a woman could make it to the top of the public affairs or public relations game.
    3. Or, hiring a retired public affairs officer willing to take less money because he or she was, in fact, retired already with benefits.

    The exceptions I believe can be compelling–especially if you fit into one of these categories.

    1. Companies and other organizations benefit, in some cases–by hiring military “brats,” who have been around the world and understand diversity and cultural differences, and who know how to talk with people and show respect. Those I have met and worked with have a global sense of reality and they do understand people and cultural diversity better than most.
    2. There are, of course, some technical areas you could argue don’t make a direct correlation, i.e., the Beltway Bandits–those in high-tech or high-security positions who can make that immediate transition to government contractors.

    I would maintain we need to look beyond direct application and see if there are other qualities or experiences that may complement the company. Don’t we promote that as trainers: that outside experience can be beneficial?

    Here I was impressively qualified having been an officer in public affairs, personally briefed a president and vice-president and a host of other VIPs, taught at the prestigious Air Force Academy, and ran the tour program inside Cheyenne Mountain. So, after the service, off I went to write the Great American Novel at home and work at Sun Glass Hut just to get out of the house.

    As attractive as that situation seemed at the time, financially I’d much rather have a real job. I did get an offer to teach at my alma mater for a third of what I had made as an Air Force captain–and that position was temporary. My welcome to the real world, I guess.

    However, life’s priorities were what they were at that time, and at the time I felt I could give up my military career. As far as I was concerned I had held some interesting jobs and what was left to do career-wise could easily be rather routine in comparison. Of course, my goal had been to keep the marriage together, but it wasn’t meant to be either.

    Now, financially ill and without a job, I found circumstances favored retired public affairs officers since they didn’t demand as much money to live on, and younger female public affairs or public relations professionals were preferred. I cost too much as middle management and didn’t have any extra advantages like checking an HR special box.

    We need to look beyond direct application and see if there are other qualities or experiences that might complement the company.

    It was, of course, one solution for employers to address the topic of the day–the glass ceiling was by hiring a woman for the jump–even one less qualified; the field is about 50/50 or it used to be. I don’t know what the figures are today, but even so, it was perceived in many ways like training today–a function that isn’t critical to company operations. I think we understand better these days.

    I found two avenues of employment, besides retail and other sales options, that welcomed diversity and where a military background was not scorned so much: government and education. No real complaint there, just reality. I found my way into government actually by using my Reserve commission to land a job as an Air Reserve Technician–basically a full-time Reservist. A caretaker of sorts, but a decent job, combining civil service and military, complete with uniform. Less pay, but nothing to quibble about in those days.

    This led to working for the Federal government without the uniform, a job I found interesting at times but lacking in creativity opportunities; I retired from it anyway, but I felt my potential was wasted. It could have been I just didn’t have the right job either, but nobody ever tried to determine how my other talents could be put to use unless I initiated it and made it happen. Not everyone does that or should do that if a company is wise and thoughtful about its hiring and training process.

    It’s about survival for company and individual alike, but here is the cautionary tale: look at all the possibilities. Another cliché: don’t leap before you look. While employers can choose from the obvious best, don’t forget that hidden among them may be someone not so obvious who can bring the company something new and different. Being different in today’s world can mean success.

    I’m sure my tale of woe is not without a story behind the story that the companies tell; I can only tell it from my perspective. I don’t know any expert in HR who will tell you to dress like an individual and tout the reasons you are unlike the company you are applying for. All the advice points to make sure you fill out the application to say exactly what the company wants you to say or you’ll be eliminated. The only way to get something else in there that someone may or may not notice is risky for the applicant. Just as the company is playing it safe so is the applicant who has more to lose personally.

    It just seems to make sense to look early for diversity and individual differences/talents that may prove useful. HR can do it, too, if they have the people. Trainers can always train the company way. While they can refine talent, and they can help identify it. And they can train a company how to manage and get the best resources from that talent.

    For more resources about training, see the Training library.

    Enough grousing on my end. The Cave Man strikes a second time on this topic. Check out my website and my eBook, The Cave Man Guide to Training and Development. In these places, I look at training and development from a little different perspective. You’ll find more of What I Say under that category. I even review plays. Imagine that! Times change and perspective needs to follow.

    Hope you found something useful in my grousing commentary. Happy training.