Life after military service can be challenging for our veterans. After years of service and sacrifice, they return to the civilian world with high hopes for building a new life. Whether this includes buying a home or starting a family, this pursuit requires them to find their place in the economy through a rewarding civilian career.
While everyone faces the challenges posed by a weak economy, with a higher unemployment rate than the general public (three times higher for ages 18-24), veterans face a number of unique hurdles when trying to find that first civilian job, including:
Employer misconceptions or lack of information often complicate a veteran’s job search. More than 60 percent of employers surveyed recently admitted they do not have “a complete understanding of the qualifications ex-service members have.” Still other employers harbor concerns based on widespread veteran stereotypes. They worry, for example, about psychological effects of military service, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, impacting workplace efficiency or safety. Some employers question veterans’ ability to think creatively, innovate and problem solve; instead, they imagine that veterans can only follow orders.
Lost in Translation
Veterans’ ability to translate their military skills to a civilian work environment also challenges potential employers. While, when translated properly, many military skills are actually in demand by civilian employers, veterans often fall short in explaining how, for instance, combat leadership under fire translates into managing construction projects under time pressure.
In short, while many employers consider it their patriotic duty to hire veterans, they worry excessively about the downside risks of hiring a veteran and don’t understand the overwhelming benefits. Ultimately, they’ll make the decision—as they should—that they think is in the best interest of their business.
A Business Case for Hiring Veterans
Employers need to hear the truth: Hiring veterans means more than doing right by your country – it means doing right by your business. And indeed, there is a compelling case for hiring veterans. Beyond the obvious experience of performing under intense pressure, veterans have received the finest training our nation offers and honed their expertise in a number of fields. Nurtured as the next generation of leaders from enlistment onward, veterans are experienced problem solvers who quickly adjust to the situations and challenges they encounter.
In 2012, Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families released a study on the differences between veterans and non-veterans regarding vocational tasks, skills, and experiences, as well as the specific abilities and attributes required for success in civilian occupations. The study concluded that veterans exhibit a host of employer-friendly skills and qualities, including: entrepreneurial spirit, advanced technical training, high levels of resiliency, advanced team-building skills and experience in diverse work environments.
Matching veterans with companies that can benefit from their skills is a two-fold task. First, we must work with veterans to prepare them to succeed in the job market—finding the right opportunities and winning them. Second, we must educate employers to recognize the business-building skills that veterans can offer them while myth busting the perceived risks of such hires.
Policy and Nonprofits
While a variety of public policy initiatives exist to address veterans’ employment challenges, they alone are insufficient to put all job-seeking veterans into high quality careers. Many nonprofit organizations, such as the ones funded by Call of Duty Endowment, excel at providing training, counseling and support for job-seeking veterans. Hire Heroes USA, Still Serving Veterans, AMVETS, Hiring our Heroes, and many other nonprofits ease the transition to civilian life by preparing veterans to succeed in the job market. The Call of Duty Endowment funds organizations that offer career counseling, teach resume building, provide industry-specific training, and connect vets with employers to a degree of effectiveness the government has not been able to achieve on its own.