Thursday, October 29, 2009

Military Experience As Job Experience

I was reading an interview from National Review yesterday about how the Israeli military has helped their economy grow by leaps and bounds over many much bigger countries, especially in the technology sector. As the interviewed author, Dan Senor, states:
Israel represents the highest concentration of innovationand entrepreneurship in the world today: the most start-ups per capita; the highest percentage of GDP invested in civilian R&D; more companies on NASDAQ than all of Europe, Korea, Japan, India, and China combined; and the biggest destination for global venture capital per capita. Israel raises 2.5 times as much global venture capital as the U.S., 30 times more than Europe, 80 times more than India, and 350 times more than China.
So why Israel? Why would a country so small and so often under attack be seen as a positive place to do business for people throughout the world? And why would Israel having a military matter? Senor explains:
The military is where many Israelis learn to lead and manage people, improvise, become mission-oriented, work in teams, and contribute to their country. They tend to come out of their years of service (three for men, two for women) more mature and directed than their peers in other countries. They learn “the value of five minutes,” as one general told us. They even learn something more uniquely Israeli: to speak up — regardless of ranks and hierarchy — if they think things can be done better.
And how does the United States treat military "experience"?
U.S. military career adviser Al Chase told us that a number of the vets he’s worked with have walked a business interviewer through all their leadership experiences from the battlefield, including case studies in high-stakes decisionmaking and management of large numbers of people and equipment in a war zone, and at the end of it the interviewer has said something along the lines of, “That’s very interesting, but have you ever had a real job?”
This is one place the United States may be missing out. The United States is now employing an entire workforce in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. Those people are getting experiences beyond the type of stress anyone would see in a workplace. They are being asked to work together in teams and/or given leadership positions. Yet when they come back from the war we need to see actual work experience? True the lack certain of the technical competencies needed for certain jobs, but more often than not, I fear that we ignore the example set by Israel and dismiss our military veterans on the job force when they could be one of our greatest assets.

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