Every year, approximately 200,000 servicemembers leave the military. But leaving the job they loved and finding employment in the civilian sector is challenging. For many joining the military right out of high school, it is the only job they ever had as an adult.  According to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey, 53% of transitioning veterans surveyed were unemployed for at least four months after getting out.

Finding the Right Job

While the veteran unemployment numbers are improving – 3.9% last month down from 5.5% in October 2020, finding the right job is still elusive for many. Of those finding employment, 44% leave their jobs within the first year.

While the reasons cited for leaving were varied, including the mistake of taking the first job they could get, 81% of veterans cited difficulty in transitioning their military-learned skills to their civilian job as their reason for leaving. Many report their civilian employment just isn’t the same; they do not find the sense of satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment in their work that they felt while in the military.

Veteran-Friendly Employment

However there is one employment area that hires veterans – a lot of them – and has success at keeping them – defense contracting in the private sector. One example is Northrup Grumman; 20% of their workforce, or 16,000 employees, are veterans. Another one is SAIC where 25% of its 26,000-person workforce are veterans.

Part of their success as employers of veterans lies in the fact that there are other like individuals employed there, so veterans can share experiences and support each other. In addition, many companies also have various veteran support programs provided by the company. For example, Northrup Grumman offers SkillBridge – a transition training program for servicemembers leaving the military, along with IMPACT – an individualized career coaching program for wounded veteran employees. Another major defense contractor – SAIC – offers mental health benefits – a dire medical need they found in 41% of their veteran employees.

Another reason for success common among defense contracting companies is the culture of the companies. Many of them are structured similar to the military, so veterans feel more “at home” working there.

Forbes recently published their America’s Best Employers for Veterans 2021 list to highlight companies that have found success hiring veterans. Besides Northrup Grumman and SAIC, other top defense contracting companies making the list include:

The Veteran Advantage

Defense contractors like hiring veterans for many reasons, but one of the main ones is the security clearance factor. Many veterans either have, or have had, clearances while serving. This makes them extremely valuable as it takes less money and time to get them into a job requiring one. And many of the jobs in defense contracting require one due to the sensitive and classified nature of their work.

If you are one of the many veterans that have quit their job during this “Great Resignation Revolution”, then maybe you should look to using your learned skills with a company that values and honors your military experience and training and get started on your defense contracting career search.


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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.