Change The Narrative
Change has been necessary in the Veterans’ space for some time and it’s up to Veterans to drive that change. The sands have shifted and will continue to do so, as will public empathy and interest in Veteran matters. Pre-pandemic we began to move away from the hay days where many rode the bow-wave created by unimpeded disruptors whose ability to adapt was looked at scornfully by some and envied by others. The pandemic hit, locking people and funding away, at the time military charities were wondering if they needed to change tack with public interest evidently on the wane, funding harder to come by and outcomes pored over. The narrative needed to change then, but the pandemic slowed that need. But it’s not gone away.
During the period of sustained conflict between initial operations into Iraq in 2003 and the cessation of combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014, a huge number of wounded service personnel returned to the UK. As the MOD began showing signs of struggling to manage such high numbers of complex injuries and the Government were asked searching questions about their ability and desire to help our service personnel overcome their wounds, the military charity sector was called upon to work with them to fill the “recovery” void. This is where a vast swathe of “independent” military charities were born with the intent of making a difference – quickly. While this worked and continues to change the shape of the military charity landscape, it swiftly became apparent the large, traditional military charities had become stale and struggled to bring about the impact and influence they once had, and with opportunity and desire to help, came competition. Competition to “help the blokes”, competition to shout the loudest, and most tellingly as time went on, competition for funding. Small charities that had stood up to help, cracked on – but in doing so took business from the big players. The big players woke up, and weighed down by decision makers, poured money into their messaging.
From there the rhetoric began to shift and became less about the beneficiary. The white noise created as a result of large marketing budgets and ever-expanding business development teams became more about the vulnerable. There were, and perhaps still are, too many military charities some who appear oblivious to the Commander’s Intent and have been accused of attempting to purloin the good will around recovery, happy to fan the flames of pity, and at their worst, sit back and fail the very people they were established to support.
“Veterans are broken. Veterans are worthless. Veterans are mad, sad and/or bad. Veterans are weak. Donate here…”
While there are of course Veterans who need and deserve support, the use of the Wounded, Injured and Sick community and others who have fallen on tough times as currency has been hugely unhelpful, uncomfortable and while it might not be fashionable to mention them, has negatively impacted the majority; Veterans who have chosen to leave (mostly), have much to offer, and need to look forward. Undoubtedly leaving the military has always been a challenge, particularly when expedited by an action or incident out of your control, but, like much military personnel to well, it’s about mindset. Positivity is needed when it comes to finding meaningful employment after the military. A positive mindset. A positive platform. A positive outlook. A positive network. A positive response. Too many have fed off the negativity and that’s why it’s time for Veterans to Change the Narrative.
Our work at JobOppO* is simple. We provide Insight, Introductions & Opportunities for members of our community, be they underemployed of unemployed Veterans or Veterans looking for a career change, Service Leavers planning their next move, Veterans wanting to help their OppOs, or employment partners looking to recruit the right people in an increasingly tough market. We educate those who used to wear a uniform about the skills, knowledge and attitude they can bring to a future employer, working with them to ensure they understand their value and their worth. We want them to make an informed decision and find the job, not just a job. We work alongside our employment partners to challenge or change perceptions, to improve their understanding and to highlight the difference between Veterans and Service Leavers. We help them identify Veterans in their organisation and to build out their Armed Forces Programmes and, where relevant, to activate the commitments made by signing the Armed Forces Covenant. We bring together good people and good organisation.
JobOppO is agile, able to do it differently and keen to collaborate with others to do it better – and we want to Change the Narrative Around Veteran Employment. One of the recommendations of the Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan released in January 2022 suggested OVA will do more to understand public perceptions of veterans by “communication strategy to promote positive images of veterans and build an awareness of the diversity of their experiences, skills and contributions to society.” This is vital to improving employability of Veterans, and less a few adverts in the Daily Telegraph the Sunday Times and the odd article shared (with limited impact) by the Forces Employment Charity. What has been published, that we hope is just the beginning, is underwhelming, reinforces stereotypes and as a result, will struggle to achieve the aim. Why do Veterans make such good employees? ?The OVA tells us there are 5 reasons however the team at JobOppO feel there’s more to talk about than transferable skills, turning up on time and flexibility etc. Employees should be encouraged to think about how employing Veterans can help increase productivity and boost performance. They should be introduced to Veterans, across a variety of sectors, of different ages and backgrounds. They should be shown how Veterans have gone on to lead successful and rewarding careers, regardless of the rank they wore in the military. They should not simply be expected to employ Veterans because they have signed the Covenant or because their competitors have “only got a Bronze”.
JobOppO encourages employers to Look Past The Uniform and See The Value. To employ a Veteran and an experienced Operations Manager with strategic vision, a Skilled Engineer who can lead teams or a Project Manager with substantial experience. There is work to be done.
Additionally, JobOppO inspires Veterans and Service Leavers to back themselves, to do away with any ideas of imposter syndrome and to support one and other.
We remind Veterans to own their transition and to understand that it means most to them. We say to Veterans that it takes 5 years to Change Gear – and at least 3 roles. We remind Veterans that only the lucky ones find a job they love and that pays the bills. We reassure Veterans that it’s not as scary as some might suggest and that they have a lot to offer. We tell Veterans their network (their OppOs) is the force multiplier that will always work for them. We let Veterans know that they need to Change the Narrative as much as anyone. JobOppO House, our app-based Veterans' Employment Community, provides a place for Veterans and Service Leavers to help themselves and each other make decisions - and Change the Narrative. There is work to be done.
*JobOppO in a Veterans Employment Community that works with Veterans and Service Leavers to help them find meaningful employment. Our funds come from Employment Partners paying an annual subscription and we donate 10% of all revenue to our chosen charity partner. It’s simple.