Posted November 14, 2012 by Joseph Hayes 

Hiring Veterans: The Solution to Your Student Employment Problems

Do any of these statements sound like what you may have to say to your student employees: "Can you please not spend your entire shift on your cell phone with your significant other?" "Please pull up your pants!" "I know that you received a bad grade but is that really an excuse not to show up for your closing shift?" "Where is your uniform?"

Have you ever lamented with colleagues around the water cooler about why these students are just not getting it? Then I’ve got a solution for you: Hire a student veteran.

Students with prior military service are entering our campuses at an alarming rate thanks to the demilitarization of two wars and a generous Post 9/11 GI Bill. These men and women are returning home to fulfill their educational dreams but are also trying to matriculate back into the civilian society. You can help this process, and they can help you by setting a great example for the rest of your student employees. Let’s look at some of the unique characteristics and experiences that these potential employees bring to the table:

  • Uniforms: No problem. They're great; one less thing to think about. Tucking in my shirt makes sense, otherwise you couldn’t see my gig line (ask a veteran if you don’t know). Closed-toed shoes, no big deal. Have you ever walked around the desert or a ship in steel-toed boots? These are a dream come true.
  • Rules and Timeliness: They get it. The military is one big set of rules and the quicker you figure them out the more successful and personal freedom you have. Five minutes early for meetings is on time. Showing up when the meeting is supposed to start is late. I’m serious about this.
  • Authority: They understand it. Somebody is always in charge, and following orders is a way of life.
  • Balance and Crisis Management: The dirty secret about military life is that it is hours, days, weeks, months, and sometimes years or repetitive boredom broken up by split-seconds of sheer terror. I mean, how many times do you set the ballroom for 300 lecture-style before someone starts having a heart attack? These students can deal with this situation.
  • Teamwork: No military unit has ever accomplished their mission without working together as a team.

Sound good? All right, now you can shoot an email to your campus veteran’s center or its equivalent and make a friend with the office coordinator ensuring they have copies of and access to your student applications. You can thank me later.

Happy Veterans Month!

Joseph Hayes

Joseph Hayes is the Assistant Dean of Students at Indiana University-Purdue University–Indianapolis.


Great post Joe!
Gillian Thiebe
Comment posted 11/14/2012 1:19 PM
Great post! I am not military, but my boss told me I would have been great because I am all about rules and authority. I am often perplexed by those who aren't. I will contact our veterans program very soon!
Trinity Gonzalez
Comment posted 11/14/2012 5:52 PM
I am glad you shared this Joe. In the 1970's at a community college I learned the value of working with student veterans. Now working at Berklee with 35% of our students from countries other than the US, we have a number of students with military experience. Enriching your staff with veterans also fulfills a cultural appreciation of your center by embracing a diverse work force. My college was founded to provide US veterans from WWII and the Korean Conflict with musical training. Many of our early faculty were veterans. Veterans served as the foundation of the world's largest college devoted to careers in music. And Joe - Thank You for serving.
Elizabeth Jane Stachowiak
Comment posted 11/15/2012 8:25 AM
Thanks for your post Joe. The type of work in the union and their previous experience are very complimentary.
Comment posted 12/01/2012 3:39 PM
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