As the year comes to a close, it’s clear that one group continues to struggle to find employment – recent veterans.
As of October 2014, the unemployment rate for veterans was 4.5 percent, which is slightly better than the overall population sitting at 5.4 percent. However, recent veterans – who have served since September 2001 – had an unemployment rate of 7.2 percent. Women in this category fared even worse with an unemployment rate sitting at 11.2 percent. And while there’s no clear answer as to why these veterans are struggling to find employment, there are some factors worth considering.
Veterans Aren’t Prepared.
There are lots of programs and resources available to service members separating from the military. However, a 2012 survey found that 47 percent of veterans felt unprepared for their career transition to the civilian workforce.
“For most veterans, it’s a shock when they go back out into the civilian world because they don’t have someone over them telling them what to do or where to go,” said Lindsey Gribbin, a veteran intake coordinator with the Recovery Resource Council’s Enduring Women and Enduring Families Veteran Services Program. “I had a veteran who had two master’s degrees that had been looking for almost two years for a job, but didn’t know where to look, how to do a resume or where to go. So educating our veterans better when they get out of the military is a big thing.”
Civilian recruiters agree. In the same survey, 61 percent of employers felt that recent veterans were unprepared for entry into the civilian workforce.
Not Enough Sell.
According to Ben Casselman, the chief economics writer for FiveThirtyEight.com, recent veterans are younger and less educated than the population as a whole. This leaves them with the unique challenge of translating their military experience so that a civilian recruiter understands that while they may not have a bachelor’s degree, they do possess the skills needed to excel at that particular job. This starts with a resume that’s free of military jargon and acronyms and uses more corporate friendly terms. And when it comes to the interview stage, veterans need to sell their individual skills.
“A hiring manager says, ‘Tell me about yourself,’ and they say, ‘I was part of a squad…’ They don’t like to take credit because it feels disloyal. As civilians, we have to be able to talk about our successes and accomplishments…” said Lida Citroën, author of “Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition.”
They Have Disabilities.
It’s estimated that the unemployment rate among those with a disability is about 17 percent. Casselman also pointed out that veterans between the ages of 25 and 44 are two times as likely to have a significant disability than their nonveteran counterparts. One topic that veterans consistently bring up to Gribbin is post-traumatic stress disorder.
“A lot of the veterans that come in (to our program) have severe PTSD and anxiety issues,” said Gribbin. “With these not treated, the majority of the veterans have said they cannot hold down a job.”
She went on to say that veterans who are treating their PTSD seem to have a better success rate in finding employment.
Overall, the unemployment situation for recent veterans sounds a bit bleak. However, there is some good news. There are lots of federal contractors and vet-friendly employers out there looking to employ prior service members. And veterans that are employed typically have full-time jobs, many in the well paying fields of science, engineering and technology. If you’re looking for civilian employment, don’t get discouraged. It may not come easily, but it is possible to have a successful career after the military.