What do you think of when you hear the word “veteran”? Maybe it’s someone who served in WWII, wearing a uniform covered with medals. Or perhaps it’s someone who served in the Korean War or more recently in Afghanistan.
Chances are, you might not think “software developer,” “human resources professional,” or “senior project manager.”
And John Proctor, a veteran of both Canada’s Navy and Armed Forces who leads Martello Technologies, wants to change that.
A champion of Canada’s veteran talent pool, he says there are more than 600,000 skilled, experienced, multidisciplinary veterans in this country who are trained and ready to build meaningful civilian careers—whether as entrepreneurs like himself or as employees across a range of sectors. The first step: connecting them with the business community.
How large is this community? And how can leaders tap into it more effectively and be more inclusive in their hiring efforts?
Canada’s Veteran Pipeline – By the numbers
- There are over 600,000 veterans in Canada, 87% men and 13% women (Veterans Affairs Canada)
- About 4,000 to 5,000 veterans leave the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) every year, ready to join the workforce (Canadian Job Bank)
- Almost one-third of Canada’s veterans are in the core working age group of 25 to 54 (Statistics Canada, 2021)
- In 2021, 97,625 Canadians were counted as serving in the CAF (Statistics Canada)
Talent at the ready to fuel your business
While they might not initially fit the traditional candidate profile, veterans may surprise you with their resourcefulness. After all, says John, they’ve been trained to adapt throughout their whole career, and are fabulous team players, very outcome driven and used to doing more with less. He adds that many veterans have project management skills, most have been in leadership roles, and all are well-versed in the nuances of working with the government.
Their backgrounds in the military align with a host of civilian roles, including vehicle technicians, network engineers, public affairs, HR specialists, and more. And besides the host of skills and experience they bring, there’s another reason to consider hiring a veteran: “It’s good for business,” says John.
Helping veterans transition from a military to a business environment will “fuel an engine that will help drive economic growth for Canada,” he says.
He offers the example of Canada’s construction industry, which is seeing a huge demand for talent. Employers who are looking for project or building site managers, especially in Ottawa, where the winters are harsh, would do well to consider a veteran because they’re used to working outdoors in all weather conditions and are trained to lead multicultural and multidisciplinary teams. “They could bring a lot of value to these roles, and it would be a big boost for them as well.”
Lost in translation: How to read a military resume
While a career in the military offers many valuable skills that civilian employers want—technical and leadership skills, strategic thinking, adaptability, resilience—hiring managers might not recognize them at first glance because they’re unfamiliar with the military titles and acronyms on a typical veteran’s resume.
John offers the example of the title Company Commander. “These people run entire training programs, manage budgets, deal with personnel issues and on top of it all, they take their teams into battle,” he says. But since the title itself doesn’t speak to most civilian human resources professionals and some veterans don’t know how to translate their responsibilities into a civilian equivalent, they may be overlooked as candidates.
He recommends thinking of veteran resumes like those of newcomers to Canada, which can sometimes contain different terminology, titles, roles and experience. John says many business leaders take great care to read newcomer resumes, ensuring inclusivity in their hiring practices. “What about our veterans?”
How can employers seek out veteran talent?
There’s a range of organizations dedicated to helping veterans transition into meaningful civilian careers—whether as entrepreneurs like John (he’s the only Canadian veteran to date to take his company public) or as employees in the private sector.
Here are some tips for employers to consider when looking to tap into veteran talent:
- Contact Veterans Affairs Canada, which, together with the Canadian Armed Forces Transition Group, has a range of programs and services to connect veterans with private and public sector employers. Many veterans might not know what kind of job opportunities are available to them in the civilian world. To advertise you’re open to hiring veterans, here are some steps to get started:
- Join the Hire A Veteran LinkedIn group to directly connect with veterans and post a job opportunity.
- Complete a short registration form to introduce yourself as an employer.
- Create a company account with Employment and Social Development Canada’s Job Bank.
- If you receive a resume from a veteran, take the time to read it and if you don’t understand it, ask for advice. The organization Treble Victor supports ex-military personnel in securing post-service careers. Contact them for advice on reviewing candidate resumes. John also recommends you search on LinkedIn for veterans like him who have CD—Canadian Decoration—in their title (here is John’s LinkedIn profile, as an example), and ask them for support in assessing the resumes of veteran candidates.
- If you’re looking for tech talent, in particular software developers or cybersecurity specialists, contact Coding for Veterans, an organization run in partnership with the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute that offers training to veterans in these two streams. They can connect you with graduates looking for work.
- Contact Prince’s Trust Canada, an organization that creates opportunities for young people and members of the military and veteran community through programs designed to prepare them for the world of work. Business leaders can get involved by volunteering as mentors to help veterans develop business skills, grow their professional networks and transition from a military culture to a civilian one.
How else can you support Canada’s veteran community this Remembrance Day?
This Remembrance Day, there are many ways for business leaders to meaningfully support Canada’s veteran community.
- Take time to reflect. On November 11, take 10-15 minutes out of your workday to pause and reflect on the many men and women who have served and continue to serve Canada, making many sacrifices for the peace we enjoy today in this country.
- Honour their stories. As business leaders, take time to ask your team to share stories of their connections to the military and veteran community, including our reservists and the family members of military personnel. Most people have a story to share about a friend, parent, grandparent or sibling who has been involved in Canada’s military service, either directly or indirectly.
- Support veteran-owned businesses. The buyveteran.ca directory lists more than 600 businesses across Canada founded by Canadian veterans—everything from bakeries and event planners to home inspectors and security services, all searchable by location and business type. When you purchase from a veteran, you support their business and their next phase of life. And the more businesses we support, the more successful veteran entrepreneur business leaders like John Proctor there will be, showing others that it is possible for them to also find success.
- Support family members of military personnel. Did you know that Altis partners with Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services and Military Family Services to help military family members build meaningful careers? If you or someone you know is a military family member looking to build a career, please join us at a FREE webinar on November 23, 2022, where we’ll be sharing tips and insights on finding remote work. Register here.
As John mentions, after serving in the military for 20 years, many veterans feel like they’re cast adrift when they consider their civilian life and struggle with the question, ‘How do I bring value?’
“Those who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces are well known for their teamwork and leadership, skills that are in high demand in Canada’s job market.”
We need to show them that we value their skills, honour their service to this country and have many exciting opportunities for them to consider in the next stage of their career.