Yesterday, sitting with my client I heard: “Adam, are you ok?”
As I snapped to, it was obvious that I was completely out of it.
It was a hard day.
Many organizations are excited to launch and tout their Veterans hiring initiatives. Many make honest, good-faith efforts to hire Veterans recognizing their resiliency, emotional intelligence, work ethic, and leadership skills. Many even go the extra mile to provide groups where fellow Veterans can network, commiserate, and grow together. These programs are a very welcome aid to those in transition from a very different sort of work.
But what happens after on-boarding and beyond the cohort? I wonder if many organizations have considered the additional bourdon carried by many Veterans.
Personally, I had my first experiences with this gap between 2009 and 2013 when I was working with a government agency as well as a well-intentioned pro-military brand. During these years I was coming to terms with the issues that followed me home from Iraq. The various side effects of PTSD, TBI, and other injuries coupled with the harsh realization that my new normal meant that there were some things I would never be able to do again led to many Physical, Cognitive, and traditional therapy sessions.
Though the federal partner was viewed as an “employer of choice” for transitioning service members, they were not flexible in allowing me to attend the appointments I needed to become a healthier person and better leader. They knew they wanted to hire Veterans, but did not understand what it meant to employ Veterans.
The well-intentioned pro-military brand wanted to tell the world how much they loved and supported the military, wanted to hire veterans, and wanted to raise money for various Veterans charities. They wanted me to be the face of their initiative, but failed to understand how such hyper-exposure to this sort of environment made for some hard days.
Through the many years that have passed, I have done a lot of hard work growing, maturing, and managing my military history. Most days it is a strong asset, and I am grateful to have the unique experiences to pull from as I work with clients.
No matter how many years have passed, and how many days span the good and bad, I do not think that I (or we) will ever be clear of the occasional hard day. As a combat Veteran who saw some of the worst things imaginable in terms of poverty, oppression, violence, and sacrifice, there will always be days where I am reflective of those memories. There will always be a day here-and-there where I am distracted, off, or even a little sensitive.
Yesterday was one of those days.
What I would like to ask people leaders and corporate HR teams to understand is that hiring a Veteran is more than one-time event, it is a responsibility to be empathetic as you take the benefit with the footnote.
We will deliver. We will be loyal. We will be resilient, inspiring, and always go above and beyond. What we ask in return is an understanding that, on occasion, we may have an off day. It is a side effect to the burden we have elected to carry.
To the client who I worked with yesterday: THANK YOU for asking, THANK YOU for caring, and THANK YOU for understanding.
Today, back to 110%.