Imagine that you have received hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of training to do your job more effectively, lead people under you more effectively, and teach, coach, adapt and overcome in highly stressful environments, so that, no matter what, you could accomplish the task given to you, exceptionally. Do you think you would be amazing at your job after receiving all that training and professional development?
Imagine now, you are ready to switch careers. You’re ready to show the world that you are trained, eager, intelligent, smart, and, above all, have a will to succeed that puts most people to shame. Enter societal roadblock. As demonstrated in one interview with a hiring manager (who now wishes to remain nameless) at a co-working spot in Austin, Texas: when asked whether they would consider hiring Veterans who were qualified for the position, her response was, “We do not know if they are stable.” Being a Veteran of six combat deployments myself, I was a bit taken aback, but I certainly did not become “unstable” toward this person. The stigma does not stop there. Even a hiring manager at a Fortune 500, Top Five Most Admired company told a Marine Public Affairs Officer who applied to their company, “Veterans are not creative and we do not know if they are stable or not.” This is a stark difference to the same company’s recent press release stating that they are going to hire 10,000 Veterans.
Assuming these statements are regarding Veterans with PTSD, it seems many people are uninformed, or worse, stereotypical, discriminatory and prejudiced. The rates for PTSD in the civilian population in the United States are around 8% at any given point, and it is estimated that roughly 20% of people (civilians) who suffer traumatic events will develop PTSD (www.ptsdunited.org). That means that over 44 million people in the United States have had, or currently have PTSD (www.ptsdunited.org). The average PTSD rate for troops from Vietnam era through post 9/11 is 20%. Interestingly, that rate equals the percentage of civilians who will develop PTSD from a traumatic event. Women are almost double as likely to develop PTSD as men are. Odds are, if you’ve worked in a company larger than 50 people, you’ve had someone in your office with PTSD.
Let’s go back to the Fortune 500 company that openly told a Veteran that Veterans are not creative people. There is no faster workplace than the battlefield. Things change in an instant, and you had better be creative about how you adapt, or it will be over. People in the U.S. military are certainly creative. Ask Google to find the nearest coffee shop, and your phone uses GPS to find your cup of jo. GPS was developed by and for the military. The Epi-Pen you use to save your life from an allergic reaction? Developed by the military for protection from nerve gas. Rubella vaccine? Developed by the U.S. military along with multiple other vaccinations such as Hep A and Hep B, that protect public health. So much for unstable and uncreative. The internet, Lithium Ion batteries, going to the Moon, LCD displays, cellular telephones signal compression, all done by the DoD. Yup, why would a company want to hire types of people who have done all that? Ask any private how creative their Drill Sergeants were, or their first team leader in teaching them the things they needed in order to survive and be an effective member of a team.
To categorize not hiring a demographic because they are “unstable” is no different than stereotyping an entire race of people based on the media promulgating that which it chooses. Actually, it seems more “unstable” to hold onto beliefs and categorizations of entire people without any statistically significant basis. There are more murders per 100,000 people in the civilian world than on a military post, more mass killings by people with no military service than with. If someone had PTSD from a traumatic incident such as a car wreck, God forbid a sexual assault, or emotional trauma such as abuse, it does not follow that you would not want to work with them because they are unstable from their trauma. Or does it follow that if you’ve had any traumatic event in your life, you are now “unstable” to work?
Above all else, the military teaches people to think for themselves as a leader. Every day, military leaders are given orders and are expected to accomplish those orders without excuses. They aren’t told how to do it, they are just told to do it. This requires thinking for themselves, creativity, operating in a diverse and collective environment, coming up with new ingenious ways to accomplish the task, and adapting strategies on the fly to changing work environments. Does that sound like something an “unstable” person could do?