1,000 Recruiters of Light

“This is America … a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.” — President George H.W. Bush, August 1988

“… each of us has a role to play, and all of us have something to contribute. He (Bush) didn’t call for one blinding light shining from Washington — he didn’t just call for a few bright lights from the biggest non-profits; but he called for a vast galaxy of people and institutions working together to solve problems in their own backyard.” —President Barack Obama, October 2009

This article is a call to action for recruiters to actively participate in assisting veterans to connect with the support and resources they need to build a career in the civilian workforce — one connection at a time through the 1,000 Recruiters of Light Project. Below is one such story which we hope connects with you and depicts our shared vision and inspires you to become involved.

Steve’s true story:


Last Tuesday night, I was lounging in a comfy club chair at the local Panera Bread with my sandaled feet up on an adjacent chair. It was a copacetic evening. The iced tea was perfect, and I was leafing through the barrage of daily emails that were left unopened from the day. An older man adorned with a U.S. Navy veteran’s jacket with a dour expression on his face started walking toward me; this fellow was not a happy camper and his low muttering mentioned something about my feet …

The place was nearly empty but he felt compelled to sit in the chair next to me. He expressed in a not-so-gentle-a-way that it was rude that someone would have their barely-covered feet up on a chair in a public place. He was angry in a way only someone with a real large chip on their shoulder is.

I could tell he was more hurt than angry — at no time did I raise my voice to escalate things. Here are some excerpts:

Navy: “I think it’s disgusting that someone would place their feet on chairs.”

Levy: “But I think I have nice feet; if they were gnarled and yellow I could understand, but look at these things.”

Navy: “I still think it’s disgusting and rude.”

Levy: “Sir, I’m sorry you feel this way, but I’ve been here for some time and at no time did the manager tell me to put my feet on the floor.”

After several minutes back-and-forth, I simply asked him why he was so angry; he told me he has been out of work for two years and could not get anyone to speak with him about a sales job. What a surprise!

Then I told him I was a recruiter and about my background working with people in the military. His demeanor eased.

For the next hour, I spoke to him about his career, what he has done in his search, what he likes to do for the simple joy of doing it — and I am sure he sensed that my interest was genuine. I introduced him to LinkedIn, reviewed his profile, and showed him how to join and use groups. I reviewed his resume and suggested changes based upon how hiring managers read resumes. We looked at several listed job opportunities. I explained to him how recruiters and hiring managers often think and act; this was all new to someone who truly believed that you must respond to HR and wait. We also shared stories about how tough it can be to be an older job seeker.

Looking back on this encounter one week later, I hope I helped him recognize how important his military service is and how he should be proud of it and highlight it — even if it did take place over 40 years ago. In reminding him to think positively and how to use the tools many job seekers should be using, a smile came to his face.

What this Navy veteran needed was someone who could mentor him as he navigated around the maze that has been created by industry and our profession — a massive field of corn stalks that in the minds of people often lead to nowhere and further exacerbate negative emotions. I believe in giving veterans a sense that recruiters do believe that one’s military service is not trivial; that job description buzzwords such as character, integrity, and motivation are not simply filler concepts that most interviewers are ill-prepared to assess.

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While he hasn’t stopped calling since, his messages have not been rude or annoying; after all, he is a salesperson and he’s trying to sell himself. With my assistance — with your help — he’ll get the job he desires. And in the end he apologized for hating my feet.


Serendipity: “An aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.”

The next day, Rob posted a Facebook message asking readers if they wanted to help review resumes through the Wounded Warriors Project’s “Warriors to Work” initiative. .

During a subsequent phone call later in the day with Rob, it simply popped out that if we could engage 1,000 recruiters — like President George H.W. Bush’s “thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky” — and attached each recruiter to a single veteran, as Rob wrote back to Todd Raphael, “think of the impact we could make.”

Think about what President Barack Obama said last year: “Each of us has a role to play, and all of us have something to contribute. [President Bush] didn’t call for one blinding light shining from Washington — he didn’t just call for a few bright lights from the biggest nonprofits; but he called for a vast galaxy of people and institutions working together to solve problems in their own backyard.”

Readers, think about how our industry — the “vast galaxy of people and institutions working together” — can use their time and talent to thank our veterans for their service with individual action and connection. Would you be willing to adopt and mentor a single veteran in need of assistance as they separate from active duty? Would you be willing to show them how to initiate and optimally use tools for their job search? Would you be willing to stand bytheir side?

This call to action stretches beyond the borders of America. It echoes across Canada, the United Kingdom, and all countries where soldiers go to war with no expectations upon their return. Let’s give them something they deserve: the opportunity to have a chance at success beyond the Armed Forces if they choose.

If you want to be part of the 1,000 recruiter movement, please join the 1,000 Recruiters of Light Facebook Fan Page. When you join, please add your picture to the Recruiters’ Photo album. More information including logistics will be posted there as we firm up the protocols. Let’s help veterans, one connection at a time.

Steve Levy is the VP of Customer Success at Crowded.com. Within the SourceCon community, he serves on the Conference/Community, Hackathon, Grandmaster, and Welcome Wagon Advisory committees. His email is steve @crowded.com.


19 Comments on “1,000 Recruiters of Light

  1. Great article! As a Vietnam era vet and experienced recruiter I am very interested in helping in any way possible. Count me in.

  2. Steve and Rob:

    Your article is of great interest both professionally and personally. I will certainly connect with the other recruiters at Facebook, which will be a first. Those who know me know that I don’t do splits, network with other recruiters or do Facebook..
    Professionally, a large portion of my business is with Government and Defense, so veterans are desirable candidates for me.
    On a personal level, I am involved, through an organization that I belong to, in creating a portal (remember when people said portal ?)for all organizations that provide veterans benefits of any sort, scholarships, rehab—any thing at all. Our goal is to create a clearinghouse that any vet can access and find all the assistance available. If anyone involved in your effort can contribute links for that site, I would appreciate it.

  3. I have had the pleasure and honor of meeting Steve only last week on a related effort to help veterans increase their self-awareness and knowledge and then find either employment opportunities or entrepreneurship training/mentoring to take a more independent route. This initiative is outstanding in its vision and most certainly will help to meet a disgraceful national state of denial of the needs of our returning veterans.

  4. Great idea. Been working with vets on job search for years and am one. Would be happy to help with job search strategy, resumes, etc. Have also done job search tips videos, on YouTube’s ClearedJobs.net channel. Contact me directly.

    I keep FB for family, LinkedIn for business so if you expand the 1000 Recruiters effort to LI, happy to join.

  5. To add, to my previous comment, I too believe personally and professionally that we have a commitment to these veterans to help them in their quest for employment after they seperate from the military. I look forward to helping with this project. Ill be joining on the facebook group as well and look forward to helping the movement.

  6. Thanks so much for all the support. We’re in the process of collecting everyone who is interested, and then finding the way to distribute resumes. Steve & I want to reach out to each and every person who has volunteered. Thanks for walking with us on this journey.

  7. Patricia’s idea was a great one! Thanks for your idea to create a Linked In group as well, not sure about twitter yet, but it is a start. So feel free to join that LI Group. I’m in contact with the Warrior Transition Battalion, so more to come.

  8. It is heartwarming to see the responses to this fine article. What we owe our military community is nothing compared to what they give us each and every day.

    In case you’re not aware of it, please know that MilitaryToMedicine.org, which helps military workers and their dependents prepare for and find jobs in healthcare, launched nationally yesterday. As a member of the National Healthcare Career Network, M2M has a robust careers site that features jobs of many military-friendly healthcare employers. It’s a beautiful thing all around.

    On a side note, when unemployed friends ask me for advice, I suggest that they subscribe to ERE for a window on the world of recruiting. Many have reported back to me that ERE has provided them with information and tools to understand and navigate the complex challenges that job seekers face. So, ROCK ON, ERE!

  9. Carol, MilitaryToMedicine.org is an excellent idea especially given the projected shortage of MDs and related roles. We’ll keep an eye on it.

    One of the ventures in which Rob and I are involved takes the concept to to very novel level; as soon as it launches – and it will be a non-profit – the word will get out. With all efforts, the gap is still the link between a vet and an employer. As recruiters, we know how to navigate, we know what employers look for, we know the shortcuts…

    There are now both Facebook and LinkedIn pages for “1000 Recruiters of Light” so whatever your philosophy is, there’s a place to join. Rob and I will have more info to post on Monday as we entertain calls from the various organizations eager to develop one-on-one relationships between veterans and recruiters.

    @LevyRecruits on Twitter (Rob is @Rheadhunter)

  10. Steve, you may want to check out HigherOut Hero out of Austin, TX. Jeff McAdams has done a lot of grunt work getting his non-profit vet centric site off the ground. See http://www.higherouthero.com. He would be another great resource for this most worthy cause.

  11. UPDATE: We have been in touch with the Warrior Transition Battalions on the West and East coast. In addition, we have a connection with Scott Smiley, former Soldier of the Year, and active duty wounded warrior. We are actively growing tendrils into the military complex to set up a system to connect resumes with recruiters. So thanks for your patience!

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