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The truth about Veterans in the workplace

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While many view Veterans Day as a welcome day off from work, it’s important to remember the fundamental purpose of the holiday: to recognize those who have served.

We sat down with Matt Poepsel, PhD, a Marine Corps Veteran and VP of Professional Services at The Predictive Index, to chat about Veterans in the workplace.

Can you give a little background into your military history?

“I served in the U.S. Marine Corps for six years as an Arabic Linguist and Reconnaissance Marine.

My military service brought me all across the United States, as well as overseas. I attended boot camp in San Diego (a “Hollywood” Marine), studied Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and was stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. I was later deployed to Somalia, where I participated in Operation Continue Hope: a mission to deliver aid to the people of the country.”

What unique qualities do Veterans bring to the workplace?

“Veterans are disciplined and dependable. Many have been subject to—and have even thrived in—stressful and high-stakes situations. Nobody is born to serve and fight for our country, so those who do answer the call show tremendous resolve and grit.

In the workplace, this translates to a strong work ethic, a sense of accountability, and an ability to learn quickly.”

What are some of the challenges Veterans face when entering the workforce?

“For one, many of the skills one develops in the military don’t translate directly to civilian roles. An infantry soldier may have extensive experience taking orders and de-escalating high-pressure situations, but it could be difficult to envision how those experiences may carry over to a 9-to-5 office job.

Secondly, many Veterans don’t have robust civilian networks they can leverage to find roles that fit their skill sets. Because many Veterans serve at the onset of their professional careers, they may not have as much business acumen or networking know-how as civilians the same age.”

Why do you think Veterans encounter these issues?

“HR leaders and hiring managers may not have a lot of experience hiring Veterans. Part of the issue is that there are currently very few databases employers can reference when assessing Veterans’ skill sets. Therefore, it can be difficult for people in hiring positions to assess whether or not a Veteran will succeed in a given role.

Some Veterans may also have financial and familial responsibilities that younger civilians don’t have. This poses a problem—especially for those looking to find the time to gain experience or develop a trade.”

Do you have advice for hiring managers assessing Veterans’ applications?

“Hiring managers, keep an open mind when interviewing Veterans who lack direct business experience. Business acumen is teachable, but Veterans have qualities that are hard to find.

Do you have any advice for Veterans navigating the job market?

“I have three pieces of advice for Veterans like myself:

  • Be proactive. There are many agencies, organizations, and other resources available for your benefit. Seek them out, and make the most of them.
  • Network. Make connections with interesting people. LinkedIn offers a free year of its Premium subscription for Veterans. Take advantage of it!
  • Be confident. Your military experience prepared you well to succeed in the private sector. Go forth with confidence.”

How can Veterans find jobs that are a good “fit” for them?

“There are plenty of agencies and resources available for Veterans today. Companies hire for all types of job cultures, so it’s important that Veterans take advantage of the available resources and find a job that fits them.

It’s also important for Veterans to understand their own behavioral drives. The PI Behavioral Assessment™ is a two-question, six-minute survey that can provide crucial insight into one’s work style. By understanding their behavioral makeup, Veterans can better triangulate what motivates them—and determine what jobs or careers they’d thrive in.

Beyond that, Veterans need to be willing to learn in order to succeed. Gain the necessary experience, develop the required skills, and show the same commitment to employers that you demonstrated during your service.”

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How has your own military history impacted your thought process when it comes to working at PI?

“My military experience has proven instrumental to my success at PI. I’ve drawn from my time in the Marines on many occasions, such as when determining new strategies, facilitating workflow, and evaluating team dynamics. My service has also inspired me to keep PI’s mission—“Better work, better world”—in mind for every decision I weigh as head of product.

One of my favorite U.S. Marine Corps Leadership Principles is to “Always employ your command in accordance with its capabilities.” It’s similar to when we talk about managing scope at PI—don’t try to boil the ocean. This mindset has helped me and other leaders on the product team determine how to develop teams—and know when we have room to stretch versus when we’re stretching ourselves too thin.”

As someone who has served in the military, what does Veterans Day mean to you?

“Veterans Day is a chance to recognize the service and sacrifice of countless men, women, and families.

Our military extends back to before our country was even established. Given the long history, it’s inspiring to see people continue to enlist and put their lives on the line to protect our freedom and keep our country safe.

Though my military experience was brief and uneventful compared to many other Veterans, I am very proud to have served.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share on the subject of Veterans Day?

“I’m not the only Veteran in my house, as my bride is also a Marine. She’s tougher than me, though!”

Matt in uniform

The truth is this: Veterans can be an incredible asset to the workplace if given the chance.

On behalf of everyone at PI, happy Veterans Day! We thank and appreciate all those who have served.


David is a content writer and editor at PI. He loves Broadway and the Boston Celtics.

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