Articles and speeches that tell veterans that they wasted their time in the military and implore young Americans to not waste their time joining are like herpes. They pop up, there’s a fuss about them, they recede, and weeks later you stop thinking about them.
Yup, I am comparing Ben Bernake to herpes.
So if Ben Bernake's recent speech and these articles will eventually fade, why should any of us care? It’s probably easier for us to go on about our day, not share an article about why military service has better equipped us for the civilian workforce, and over time forget that we as veterans are part of a large interconnected community.
You care, or rather should care, because part of your earning potential, part of your added value is at risk every time a civilian reads one of these articles or hears one of these speeches.
Now it’s true, the validity of the power of the veteran advantage in the private sector is sometimes more hype than fact. And it’s certainly true that “we want to hire veterans” is often times more for PR than because any private sector company really wants to hire veterans. It’s also not a secret that the majority of those who enter the military aren’t people who we would consider to be “fortunate sons”.
Damn, I’m kind of building a case for why Ben Bernake was right….
But the last truth, and probably the most important truth is that there are many roads that lead to success. There are plenty of debt laden students out there who live pay check to pay check, while there are tons of veterans whose service completely paid for their degrees.
And I’m not talking about for profit, Strayer, or University of Phoenix degrees.
There are plenty of millennials who jump from one career to another. Do we tell them that the time they spent as a marketer was a waste of time because they are now a cook?
Well… maybe… until they become a Chef or use their experience as a marketer to market themselves for another job.
The lie that we have allowed to seep into the military success conversation is that your military experience is all you need to be successful- that being a “leader” is a differentiator.
Guess what, when 50,000 service members are leaving the Army this year, being a military minted leader isn’t that big of a differentiator.
The truth is that the military prepares you for success. The benefits that have been earned give many men and women opportunities that they would not have otherwise had. The network that is gained from having served is often times more valuable than the college alumni networks gained. Like most things in life, it’s what you do with your experience and how you prepare yourself for your next step that dictates whether or not you will be successful.
Your military experience is a spring board, nothing more. How soft your landing is, depends on how much preparation you did before you jumped and how ready you are to stick the landing.
Want another take on Bernanke's speech? Read Maybe Bernanke is Right? But Maybe He's Wrong About Military Service?