Veteran leaders, are you sheep or sheep herders? Don't let society decide.
Endless articles and advice from “mentors” suggest transitioning veterans should drop who they are at the door and pick up an entirely different image in order to be successful post-service. There has been mockery on the language which we have used throughout our careers. There has been stereo-types to the ignorance which we must have in order to “choose” to enlist versus become an officer. Suggestions have been made that we must not be able to think for ourselves if we chose the enlisted path. “Enlisted members are followers and therefore would be better suited for lower paying-entry level jobs.” I must ask the obvious question- America, where are you getting this stuff from? I believe the obvious answers are; impartial media coverage, military affiliated television shows with sparse validity to real-world experiences and personal bias.
I am bringing this conflicting imagery to life as I feel especially called to remind the 1% that chose a life of humanitarian servitude and selflessness to not, I repeat do not, listen to these people. For some veterans, military culture and life is all you know. Others have had their feet dipped in the shallow end and still feel the vast difference in being more aware of who they are than ‘seniors’ of the industry may ever understand. I say this not as a derogatory towards the "grand divide of military acceptance and culture to corporate stereotypes"-- but as an awakening of the premise for which opinions are formed. People do not know what they do not know. It is a simple statement that is weighted with a lot of merit for nothing could be more true in life. It seems rather straight forward for those that feel pushed and pulled to fit into an image that has been created by outsiders who look from a perceptive of their own awareness.
Veteran leaders, you must stay true to who you are.
You are not here to conform-you are here to stand out and pave the way!
If the advice you are receiving from a potential employer is “don’t be who you are,” then why would you want to work for them? If a hiring authority is not going to take the time to understand your previous experiences at all, then why would you want to work for them? Veterans are tasked with changing their image, essential overnight, in order to be accepted into these 'corporations' to earn a living. Everything we have ever valued becomes a thing of the past. Every word of motivation used is considered an unacceptable foreign language which makes others uncomfortable around you. The list goes on and on. There is no merit in making a sheep herder a sheep and having any sense of legitimate self-worth at the end of the day. So why do this to yourself? If employers do not value your experiences, then please look elsewhere. They do not deserve you.
I suppose that is why I have chosen the path I have since active duty. I could not fathom giving up such a great belief system and a sense of family for a company that does not care anything about it. I chose to stay working alongside the military in a civilian/contractor capacity because I did not want to sell out all that has been so precious about serving in the armed forces. I hope that all of my fellow veterans that had “different work” in the military does not conform into a meaningless existence. You were meant for so much more than that and the world needs you as you are!
I close with this statement,
If you tell me, you value veteran experience and thank me for my service-then don’t ask me to be anything other than who I am.
Author: Carin R. Sendra, is a USAF veteran, doctoral candidate and thoughtful writer of veteran and military related issues. Her poem “American Soldier” was awarded and presented in the Veterans Voice magazine as a tribute to her departed father, Donald R. Sendra, U.S Army veteran-1st Air Calvary Division, Vietnam. Carin served active duty on a special duty assignment supporting the commander and traveled the world in support of her patriotic servitude doing security contract work. Carin is a seasoned team development leader with over thirteen years’ experience in operations and training. She is very passionate in creating awareness on the talents and leadership which her fellow veterans have to offer the world both on and off of the battlefield. Her past time hobbies include; cross fit training, mixed martial arts, hiking, traveling and creative writing.