Veteran Employment Issues, Initiatives, and Resources
After military service, stability is often a question for veterans and their families. While many veterans are able to find work, there is a staggering number that still struggle with creating and sustaining a civilian career. Combined with the lack of consistent employment for military spouses, the result is a household with two individuals suddenly in entry level positions after five, ten, or twenty working years of military service. For an average family of four in today’s economy, this is not sustainable.
Veteran Unemployment & The Impact on American Society
Veteran unemployment has seen some positive changes in the past two years. However, an average of 1 in 3 employed veterans report they are currently underemployed or in a low-paying job.
In any other career field, by the time they leave the service, many military veterans would be at an equivalent to a mid-level management tier in the civilian sector. But they reach that market and there is a sudden disconnect. They struggle to translate their military service into a resume that matches the average civilian employer hiring ‘checklist’. They leave the military and find themselves forced to find ‘a job – any job’ to provide for their families.
They are trying to figure out where they fit in a world outside of that military uniform. It’s a scary prospect when their ‘job’ for the last four, five, or twenty years has been their family.
Civilian jobs are a whole different ball game.
“Over the past few years companies have focused heavily on marketing their veteran hiring initiatives, which was necessary and has paid off. But employers may still not understand the skills veterans had in the military, which may land them in positions that don’t use all their skills and not get them the higher salary levels that they deserve.
Veterans may have to present themselves in a different way, but once hired employers should work to ensure they have the skills they need to be successful and in challenging, rewarding roles in their civilian careers.”
– Rosemary Haefner, Chief Human Resource Officer @ CareerBuilder
U.S. Veteran Employment & Financial Stability After Military Service
Unemployment After the Military Is Common: A recent study from the University of Southern California states that the majority of surveyed veterans do not have a job in place when the leave the service, even though many of them reported that they expected to be able to quickly find a job. A study from the Department of Veterans Affairs confirms this – 53% of separating post-9/11 veterans face a substantial period (three to twenty-four months) of unemployment immediately after leaving the military.
Female Veterans Report Higher Levels of Difficulty Transitioning from Military Service to Civilian Careers: According to the 2019 Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey Report, while half (51%) of male veterans report their transition was difficult or very difficult, two-thirds (66%) of female veterans indicate this to be the case. Furthermore, female veterans report being less prepared on every aspect of transition and have significantly greater feelings of social isolation.
Current Transition Programs Aren’t as Effective as They Could Be: There are programs in place – like the Transition Assistant Program (TAP) – designed to assist veterans in the process of transitioning out of the military. However, the efficacy of those programs is often called into question by the veterans themselves and the employers hiring the veterans.
Veteran Unemployment Rates Are Still Higher Than the National Average: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans was 4.7% in late 2019, while the national unemployment rate was 3.5% at the same time.
Veterans Are an Educated Group: More than 46% of post-9/11 veterans have some college education, and 32% have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Combined with years of military training, personnel management, and technical skills – that level of education makes them highly capable prospective employees.
Obstacles to Sustainable Veteran Employment
- Skills Translation
- Lack of Preparation
- Proper Acclimation
- Negative Stereotypes
- Culture Clash
Veterans have served in the same career field for several years. They’ve worked their way up the ladder, just like one would in a civilian job. They’ve progressed through their career into different positions, they’ve held management roles, and they’ve learned new skills year after year. They’ve received substantial training on personnel management, operations and logistics, new technology, and much more.
However, translating those military skills into a civilian environment is challenging, and many veterans leave the military without much training on how to use what they know in this new environment. On the employer side, a hiring company may struggle to see the correlation between the military jargon on a resume and the skills they need to run their business.
In this case, education on both sides is vital to the success of the veteran and the hiring business.
According to data from USC and the VA, the majority of post-9/11 veterans who went through the Department of Defense and Department of Labor sanctioned programs like the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) reported feeling “unsupported”, and described the program as a “box checking exercise.”
“I really anticipated getting more information from the TAP . . . like he [another veteran in the group] said, it was just checking the box. It was something they had to do but they didn’t really care what you got out of it and they were almost going to let me get out without even having gone.” – Male Post-9/11 Veteran Study Respondent, USC
In addition, these studies showed that the majority of surveyed veterans reported disinterest from their leadership once they knew they were leaving the service – instead prioritizing their attention on those continuing in the service. Almost all the veterans surveyed discussed ways in which the military had created unrealistic expectations of civilian life, such as veterans being a priority for support services and that veterans find employment easily due to their military service.
This is another area where education and proactive support can help to bridge the gap between transitioning veterans and civilian-owned businesses.
Some employers are concerned that veterans don’t completely fit into corporate culture. Fortunately, employers can do their part to communicate their culture, so that the veteran can determine this for themselves before applying for a position with the company.
Often the concerns employers have about veterans are simply stereotypes or small hurdles that can easily be overcome. Work with each other through communication, training, and (once on board) mentorship programs. Employers will be rewarded with discipline and strong work ethics from their new veteran employees, and veterans will be rewarded with a workplace that better understands and values them.
Yet again, education and actionable programs can go a long way to solving these issues for both parties and promoting a successful employee/employer relationship.
There are a myriad of common negative stereotypes associated with hiring veterans, particularly combat veterans. Some employers see veterans as too rigid or formal. Other stereotypes include problems with anger management or post-traumatic stress.
One way veterans can work to overcome the stereotype of rigidity is to prepare for interviews. It’s important to remember that the military hierarchy and required parameters for decorum don’t always apply in the civilian space. In fact, it can be a little off-putting to prospective employers in certain industries. Have a civilian play the role of an employer and ask questions about your background, experience, and qualifications. Learn to get comfortable in a civilian interview setting.
Employers would benefit by remembering that this perceived rigidity is simply a sign of discipline and hard work. Veterans have learned to be adaptable and will soon learn to fit into your culture as well, especially if you make it clear what your culture is and what your expectations are.
For veterans, if you are faced with the challenges associated with anger management or post-traumatic stress, help is available at VA facilities. It may take some help to get back on your feet, but don’t let that stop you from furthering your career.
For prospective employers, understanding that 1) not every combat veteran has experience with PTSD and 2) educating yourself on PTSD can have a positive impact on your dealings with affected veterans – both as employees and in the general public. PTSD does not preclude veterans from sustaining successful careers, though it can be a substantial challenge for many.
Support from an employer and the local community can make a difference in the life of a veteran dealing with PTSD. But, the first step is to avoid the temptation to make a snap assumption about a combat veteran.
In the University of Southern California study, veterans reported that communication variances make relating to colleagues and peers difficult. Missing the cohesion, camaraderie, hierarchy, and time structure of military work made civilian work frustrating for the veterans.
Cultural dissonance was exacerbated among veterans who continued a strong affiliation to military cultural norms and their military identity. When old role identities and expectations linger in to new roles, the ability to fully assimilate into new roles is inhibited.
We’re going to repeat ourselves again and reiterate the importance of education and communication between the veteran and the prospective employer to ensure a successful employee/employer relationship.
Differences and unique perspectives in your employees isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and military service can help to make veterans excellent people-first team leaders.
“I believe that you – Main Street Business Owner - are the cornerstone of our country’s growth and the key to our sustainability.
I’m asking you to invest in our military families.
I charge you to take direct measures to seek out and recruit veteran professionals for your business. I also encourage you to connect with organizations designed to help your business and your prospective veteran hires achieve success.”
– Erika Heeren, Founder & President @ The Small Business Marketing Studio
SBMS Solutions & Initiatives to Support Veteran Employment After the Military
Our mission is two-fold:
Internships & Job Placement in the Marketing Field
This is not a “run and get coffee” type of internship. We offer 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month internships for aspiring marketers and veterans transitioning out of military service into civilian careers.
During an internship, you’ll be going through a comprehensive training program, job shadowing and performing supporting tasks for our Virtual Marketing Professionals, and receiving one-on-one coaching with our President, Erika Heeren. You’ll be working on real client projects, producing great content and driving revenue for small businesses.
Our internship is great for veterans looking to get into the field of marketing right out of the service. As a part of the internship, we’ll work with you to build a resume and portfolio featuring your skillset, and provide interview coaching to help set you up for success as you enter the civilian workforce.
For interns that show substantial promise and an interest in the field of marketing as a long-term career, we work to place them in a full-time position with a veteran-friendly business. We offer FREE training for both the veteran and the business to ensure a seamless transition and a successful employee-employer relationship.
To be notified of the next internship opportunity, join our email list!
The CMO Project
Our network includes a selection of executive-level marketing professionals who are military spouses or veterans.
For businesses who are scaling quickly, our contract CMOs are in high demand for growing small businesses, private and public enterprise companies, non-profit organizations, as well as local, state, and federal government agencies.
Are you a veteran or military spouse with more than 15 years of experience in marketing with executive experience? If you’re interested in joining our roster of industry leaders?
Email admin@smallbusinessmarketingstudio with your resume and cover letter.