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Student veterans have been on my mind quite a bit over the last few weeks.  This is partially because I am moderating an employer panel at the Student Veterans of America (SVA) National Conference in Las Vegas this week, and I’ve been thinking about what questions I’d like to pose to the employers so that the audience hears the information that will be critical for them to connect successfully with companies.  But it is also partially because I still see a disconnect between many companies campus recruiting efforts and military recruiting efforts.

The disconnect is that the two efforts are seen as completely separate endeavors.  A significant number of veterans are taking advantage of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill and heading to college to start or complete a bachelor’s degree or pursue an advanced degree.  Who is reaching out to them with your company’s internship and co-op opportunities?  It is not enough to just show up on campus and hope that the student veterans attend your event.  You need to make an effort to reach out to them and let them know you are coming, that you want to speak with student veterans, and the kinds of opportunities you’ll be able to discuss.

You have to remember that the typical student veteran is a non-traditional student – older, likely married, and with a minimum of 4 solid years of work experience.  They are not the 17-18 year old with a helicopter parent whispering in their ear every day and nagging them to look for internships and summer jobs.  Many have told me that they did not know what an internship was before someone sat them down and explained how it could be used to line up a job after graduation.

Employers looking to hire military can provide a service and create a recruiting link by establishing a relationship with student veterans groups.  The SVA has over 500 chapters across the US, and are adding dozens more every year.  Open up a dialog with them by making it known that you are a company that values and supports military service.  Be clear that you want to hire former service members, and that you embrace the opportunity to promote your company brand to this constituency.  Then do just that – come to campus for career day, or sit on a career panel, or host an “open house” just for the veterans. 

Another thing to keep in mind:  if your list of “preferred colleges” does not have an SVA chapter, you have to change your tactics.  You have to “fish” where the “fish” are, not in the pond you prefer to frequent.  For example, DeVry University has well over 10,000 veterans and military spouses across 90+ campuses and online pursuing degrees – have you connected with them?

A few ideas for you to try:

  • If you are within a 3 hour drive of the campus, invite the veterans to your location for a special “welcome veterans” event.  Provide a tour of your company.  Arrange for a meet-and-greet with some of your veteran-employees who can share their experience with transitioning to civilian employment and who can explain how their military skills are being utilized in a corporate job. 
  • If your office is not near a campus, you can still send a contingent of veteran employees and a recruiter to campus for a special afternoon/evening, perhaps at a local restaurant or a catered event at a local hotel.
  • An organization I follow, the Greater Philadelphia Veterans Network (GPVN) is running a “Take a Vet to Work Day” program for its members.  You could replicate that idea in your area, or participate in GPVA’s if you are in the Philadelphia area.
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