CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (Nov. 11, 2022) — Veterans recognizing the many intangibles they accumulated during their years of service can start opening many more career doors for them.
At the same time, prospective employers themselves need to keep an open mind to those often-overlooked skills, said Brigadier General Bart Gilbert, a retired United States Army Officer with over 40 years of Army and Reserve service.
“You do things on a daily basis and you don’t think about those intangibles being a good fit for a job,” said Gilbert of qualities veterans should be ready to express during a job interview.
In remarks presented as part of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisor’s annual Veterans Day observance during its meeting on Nov. 8, Gilbert noted the many fundamental qualities shared by those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice.
“(Veterans) possess courage, pride, determination, selflessness and a dedication to duty,” said Gilbert, who cited other intangibles such as leadership, work ethic, punctuality, being a team player and showing flexibility while also taking initiative.”
Walking the Talk
As one who also served 27 years in Contra Costa as Director of the County’s General Services Department, Gilbert walked the talk by identifying and hiring veterans who brought unique skill sets to county jobs.
He cited for example several women within his county department who were extremely well qualified and worked in capacities like data processing and clerical roles, and another fellow whose Coast Guard background included hands-on technical skills in communications.
Gilbert spoke to his own situation when he joined the county and had to rely on skills that he developed through his military service. In his role as a purchasing agent, he recalled a horrific situation when a few county buildings were set ablaze on a weekend in downtown Martinez. From his days in combat, he knew quick action was necessary to hire people to safeguard the buildings and preserve the vital records that were stored on those premises.
“The ability to be flexible and to adapt to different things and conditions that happen in the military are the kinds of (qualities) you want to share with employers,” said Gilbert of his advice to veterans when they go in for an interview.
“It falls on the veteran to do a good job of explaining (the intangibles) and have enough self-assurance, and not just upon the employer to pry that information out of them,” he added.
From the employers’ side of the desk, he encouraged them to keep an open mind to all the hidden talents and knowledge that veterans bring to the workplace.
Gilbert also recalled in his various overseas deployments other intangibles he came to embrace such as awareness of different cultures, customs, languages, and economies, and how those help him even today with dealing with people from different backgrounds.
One of Gilbert’s own former county bosses who was not a fan of hiring veterans and who held the flawed preconception and stereotype that they had the same IQ as the temperature in the room.
“Many veterans did not ask to leave their homes to fight on distant battlefields. Many did not even volunteer. They did not go to war because they loved fighting. They were called to be a part of something bigger than themselves by serving their country. They were ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways in extreme times,” said Gilbert.
“Veterans make really good employees – some of the best,” he added.