3 Things to Consider When a Veteran's Personal Values Don't Align with Their Company's

(U.S. Air Force/2nd Lt. Benjamin Aronson)

Question: I've been working at my current employer for about a year. It's my first job after leaving the Navy. My work is fine, but in talking to a friend about the company, he told me about some bad things the company did a while ago. 

Now I'm concerned that this will look bad on my resume. Should I quit?

Answer: You are wise to consider whether the reputation of your employer could potentially reflect negatively on your career. But there are a few things we'd need to assess before you make a change. Here are some questions to ask yourself about your situation:

1. Did These "Bad Things" Your Employer Did Get Fixed? 

For example, if they're accused of treating veteran employees poorly in the past, did they put systems and processes in place to change that behavior? If so, this could be a sign that things are moving forward in a positive direction. Sometimes when something negative has happened, companies replace leadership teams, retool their processes or implement other significant changes to ensure the behavior is changed and for which they should be credited. If the behavior they were accused of is still happening, this could be problematic if it conflicts with your personal values. For example, if they are accused of not practicing the diversity commitments they publicly profess, and diversity and inclusion are characteristics of an employer you value, this would make it hard for you to stay.

2. Did You Do Your Due Diligence When Interviewing? 

You mention that you've been working there for a year, and things are going fine. Have you witnessed any poor behavior (consistent with what your friend mentioned) that causes you alarm? When you were exiting the Navy and interviewing with this company, did you speak to others about their experience at this company, and were there any red flags? If you conducted informational interviews, asked good questions of interviewers as you progressed through the hiring process and made a thoughtful decision to join this employer, then perhaps what happened in the past is no longer relevant.

3. What Do You See as the Cost of Staying Versus the Cost of Leaving? 

Similarly, what are the benefits to staying or leaving? Could staying result in stress as you feel you're working for a company you're not proud of and don't respect? Are you more apt to make mistakes in your work when you're stressed and distracted? What toll could this take on your health and personal life? If you leave, how could that hurt your career as you've been at this job for a year, and things were going "fine"? How would you explain the change? Likewise, what are the advantages to staying or leaving? If you stay, and you're convinced the company has made the changes to move forward in a new, more positive direction, could you be a part of their reputation rebuilding? If you leave, could you do better due diligence and work for a company you are confident has a stellar reputation?

There are pros and cons to staying and leaving. Either way, you'll have to reconcile your choice, and the questions that arise, first with yourself. Before you act quickly, consider speaking to your boss about what you heard and ask for their take on what happened before. Ask yourself whether the explanation you receive satisfies you. If not, and you still feel conflicted, it could be time to look for a new opportunity.

The author of "Success After Service: How to Take Control of Your Job Search and Career After Military Duty" (2020) and "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition" (2014), Lida Citroën is a keynote speaker and presenter, executive coach, popular TEDx speaker and instructor of multiple courses on LinkedIn Learning. She regularly presents workshops on personal branding, executive presence, leadership communication and reputation risk management.

A contributing writer for Military.com, Lida is a passionate supporter of the military, volunteering her time to help veterans transition to civilian careers and assist employers who seek to hire military talent. She regularly speaks at conferences, corporate meetings and events focused on military transition.

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