Posted on Apr 29, 2016
SGT Dave Tracy
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I had a rather odd situation come up.

I was just casually looking at an employment opportunity with a large company that not only has hired many grads from the specialized business program at the university I graduated from (prior to joining the Army), but is a big veteran hiring supporter—apparently.

This position is one where my education and experience would make me viable as a member of the candidate pool…now whether I could land the job is a different story, but it’s not like I was aiming for CEO. The company had a link to inquire if a veteran, which I did, and the long and the short of it was, the company vet rep I talked to strongly implied that the job was above me as they would want a veteran candidate who had been an officer.

Wait, what?

I didn’t say this to him, but what was running through my mind was “so if I rolled in off the street with my resume, I’d be a legitimate candidate, but as a veteran applicant, if I work through this guy and their veteran’s initiative—same resume obviously—I would NOT be qualified, because I am an NCO and not an officer [which was by choice]?” I also didn’t say it, and wish I had, but one of my former graduating classmates holds a position with that same company much higher than the one I was looking at, and she never served. I could probably reach out to her, but I’m not feeling high on them now. Besides, why make the next alumni get-together feel awkward?

Am I mad? Not mad, but a bit irked.

So, anyone else had their military rank bite them in the civilian world?
Edited 6 y ago
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LCDR Sales & Proposals Manager Gas Turbine Products
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Sadly, I'm sure you're spot on.

However, I can assure you it works "both ways". When I first left AD, I was repeatedly told that as an officer, I was either "overqualified" (translation: "We don't want you taking Bob's job"), or in more sincere terms, "underqualified" (translation: "We figure you weren't hands on enough"). I ended up "low man" on a residential construction crew (actually, one of the best jobs I ever had) working for an OUTSTANDING former E-5. I've officially dug ditches and worked for a living.

It took awhile, but eventually, I got up the chain...and am on an equal par with quite a few former NCOs I'm proud to call colleagues. I'll never make the equivalent salary of my year group still in uniform...and will certainly never enjoy their retirement options.

A lot of it comes down to being "the guy" a company is looking for; your military past can accentuate, or cloud over that prospect pretty quick. If you're looking for a sales job bringing in a $60k plus salary plus commission, they'd rather hire someone who "came up" in corporate sales...but might take a chance on an extroverted officer (if the market has customers who are ring knockers). If you're looking to manage folks in public utilities, they'd rather hire someone who started out on the line at 19, but may take a chance on an infantry NCO with mechanical ability and certs to back it up.

Bottom line; we're seriously misled about what our military identity means out here...No JO born can step into a mid-level corporate mgt job without some serious prep, and no matter how hard you worked to make stripes, every guy who came out of HS to land that coveted spot on the crew is going to resent a sup who didn't. What makes the difference is what you do once you get a toe in the door. One of my Sailors painted rocks for a few years till he got on a federal fire crew...now, he's a "Yellow Shirt" making great pay and living a life I sometimes envy. In my case, it just came down to learning to be someone different, and making that as valuable an accomplishment as my oak leaves.
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PO2 Chief Executive Officer (Ceo)
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I think it's shocking and actually, quite disappointing, how uninformed even "Veteran Recruiters" are about what value we bring to a company!
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SFC Michael Palmer
SFC Michael Palmer
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I was an Army Reserve Civil Affairs Team Sergeant, a Sergeant First Class (equivalent to a Chief Petty Officer) who did an officer's job in both Iraq and Afghanistan managing projects and damage claims by the locals and who, also, in the infantry, had a lot of experience in planning, coordinating, and leading people.
No matter how I word it and/or show proof of my work, civilian employers just don't get it. You are correct.
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CSM(P) Police Officer / Detective
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There are a lot of assumptions made based on rank and even a degree. A fair evaluation of your skill, accomplishments, ability and vision should have been evaluated, not your rank.

Ironically I experience the opposite with my employer in two ways. With my peers, I find myself stepping on toes because of my military experience and leadership skills. With superiors I found that they sometimes expect more of me and task me with special projects. Honestly… I don't mind either way. I am leading my peers to greater successes and exceeding the expectations of my superiors and learning skills outside my current role with my employer.

This situation can be a learning opportunity. In the future, you can articulate your professional assets rather than them making assumptions based on your rank.

Good luck!
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