If I could sum up what twenty-plus years of multicultural experience afforded me during my time in the Army I’d say it’s humility- and I think many of my fellow veterans would agree.
Humility allows you to acknowledge when you may not have all the answers- and the willingness to look within the team to find them. Humility reminds you that you are always improving- becoming your better self- through adversity and all the challenges life throws you- personally and professionally. And, humility compels you to reach out for support as you acknowledge that you certainly can’t succeed alone. But, here’s the challenge- Humility is not something you see on a resume under a list of achievements and accolades. It’s also probably not the one-word answer to the question “what trait can you bring to our organization?” Perhaps it should be.
I believe that one of the strongest traits a veteran may bring to his or her organization is self-awareness that humility provides. I once had a mentor who’d consistently reminded me to not take too much stock in what’s written about me – good or bad- and that what really mattered was having the self-awareness to know my strengths and weaknesses – and the willingness to do something about them. A work in progress was our mantra- as followers and as leaders. We’d strive for perfection knowing full well that we would never get there- but we knew we’d be richer for the journey- a tapestry of experiences- successes and failures along the way.
I vividly remember so many of these experiences. The shopkeeper in Bosnia who rebuilt his grocery stand time and again, never giving up- The translator in Iraq who knew she would go to university and start her own business someday- And the woodcutter in Macedonia who would share his dreams for his family and their future. All these inspirational life’s lessons and countless other examples I know many of my fellow veterans have experienced humble us all. They remind us that nothing is impossible and what’s most important is that you must have a vision and a belief that you will get there- no matter what. This, to me, is what so many veterans (as well as so many others from all walks of life) bring to the table.
So- as so many of you altruistically reach out to hire veterans- to create policies and programs to retain veterans I’d tell you that we are all so very grateful for your support as we all try to find our next opportunity to truly make a difference with both hope and humility.