“A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean. “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?,” he asks. “Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.” “But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.” The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”
People often join the military because they want to make a difference. Besides the gamete of other reasons to join, they want to “fight the good fight” and put in their contribution. Once people join, the service is something they believe in so strongly…that they are often instilled with a sense of esprit de corps that most can’t match. When members leave the service….that quest to make a difference, doesn’t necessarily leave…but either stays the same, or is amplified. It may be re-vectored to a new goal however: likely a new career path.
For me, that continual urge became stronger; each day on the quest to help solve the veteran employment “issue.” There are 50,000 ways to help the service member, but for me…I often want to be at the tip of the spear to make the largest impact. That at times involves great rewards/satisfaction and fun…. but also frustration and pain as you encounter obstacles. You can feel proud, but also question your contribution to the great good as you align yourself for “sense of purpose” and “greatest impact.” l am not theoretically religious, but I am spiritual by nature…so when a colleague sent me the story of the starfish (above) …it truly resonated….every little bit helps. Just like ever service member makes contribution to their country….every task can be drawn to show a purposeful part of the mission.
The important aspect to remember when helping your service members in their new careers….is that they are often seeking something where they can make an impact to a “new mission.” In your organization, you need to draw the lines and parallels that show members how they impact the greater organizational good…and perhaps beyond. Think of Cardinal Health (or another medical supply store). Moving boxes in a warehouse directly contributes to a medical part reaching a hospital on time so that a patient survives. A sense of urgency is needed in order to ensure the mission is completed. That service member can leave their job…knowing they were a part of a bigger picture. The organization doesn’t have to be a life saving company—–but at least drawing correlations that allow members to see how their contribution helps……can make all the difference in the world for both recruitment and retention.
Your message in branding to veterans should consider how they will contribute back.