Hiring a Veteran is Half the Battle

By Kenneth Morton, U.S. Navy veteran and product support specialist, Elekta

Source: AdvaMed

I am proud to have served our country as a sailor in the United States Navy for twenty years. Today, I am proud to serve people in need as a product support specialist in the medical technology industry.

The skills I honed in the Navy as an aviation electronics technician translated well into my current role. During my naval career, I managed software systems and learned how to maintain, troubleshoot and repair sophisticated equipment. In my current role at a medical technology company that is pioneering innovative solutions for treating cancer, I provide real-time, virtual technical support to leading medical institutions to ensure cancer patients get the radiotherapy treatments they need. Since 50 to 60 percent of people with cancer will need radiotherapy at some point during their treatment, this is a critical job.

It wasn’t just the technical skills I gained in the Navy that gave me an edge, however. I was exposed to diverse cultures and people, which helped me recognize and respect where people are coming from and how to maximize their strengths. The military also taught me how to stay calm in high-pressure situations and get issues resolved. When a life is at stake, patience and level-headed thinking are critical.

I am lucky; my job is fulfilling and rewarding. And I work in an industry that is committed to hiring transitioning military veterans into good-paying jobs, into roles that are not just for scientists or engineers, but for people with skills in human resources, finance, logistics and the supply chain, among others. Veterans can fill any role, from entry level all the way up to the CEO.

But many of my fellow veterans aren’t so lucky. According to a CareerBuilder study conducted last year, nearly a third of employed U.S. veterans say they are underemployed or in a low-paying job. That’s unfortunate; veterans can and do make significant contributions to the American workplace, every day. While I am encouraged by the meaningful efforts — by our government and businesses across the country — to recruit and hire former members of our military, I would argue that’s only half the battle. It is equally important to help veterans find positions that not only effectively leverage their skills, but also offer opportunities to advance in their post-military careers.

In addition to the technical skills we bring to the table, research indicates that members of the military possess important soft skills that make us valuable and productive members of just about any business organization, including high levels of resiliency, advanced team building skills, and strong organizational commitment. However, these skills are often harder to communicate with prospective employers.

We need to do more to support programs offered by organizations like MVPvets (MedTech and BioTech Veterans Program), a group that assists and prepares transitioning military veterans for meaningful employment in the life sciences industry. These types of programs help prospective employers evaluate those soft skills — like critical thinking, team-building and leadership — and match veterans like me with mentors, jobs and career resources. To date, more than 1,450 veterans have participated in the MVPvets program and have either gained employment in high-quality jobs within the life sciences industry or have improved their current employment situation and job readiness post military transition.

Today, I have a job that matters. I am proud to work at a company that recognizes what I can contribute, and it is my hope that government and business leaders here in our region and across the country will emulate what the medical technology industry has been able to do by putting greater emphasis on placing veterans in positions that make the most of their skills and experiences. This is a battle we can most definitely win.

Kenneth Morton served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years. He is a product support specialist at Elekta in Atlanta, Ga. More information on MVPvets can be found here: http://www.mvpvets.org/.