I remember the feeling I had stepping off the USS Tennessee for the last time. It was 1994, I was 26 years old, and I had no idea what I was going to do next. For the five years I served on active duty, the Navy pretty much told me what to do. They also taught me everything I needed to know to be a successful line officer on a nuclear submarine. What they didn’t teach me was how to transition to a civilian job.
I recall going to civilian job interviews and being asked questions I had no idea how to answer. Business jargon was a mystery to me. It was like I had been living on another planet for the past five years and, after seven deployments, I guess I had been. Luckily for me, I was hired by a company that was recruiting former nuclear naval officers. They understood my background and didn’t care that I knew very little about the job they needed me to fill.
I was also lucky to connect with several Navy veterans at my new company who mentored me and helped me make a successful transition to civilian life. As I said, I was lucky. But veterans shouldn’t have to rely on luck to be successful. For most veterans, making the transition to the civilian world is significantly more difficult than my experience. The biggest challenge they face is just finding a job.
As stated in my article Six Reasons You Need to Hire a Veteran Today, many companies pass over military veterans when reading resumes. The reason is they have both a lack of understanding as well as misconceptions about veterans. They often overlook veterans for key job openings because they don’t understand the work history and military terminology on the resumes of veterans. They also have misinformed assumptions of what veterans are like based on popular culture.
As a result, more than 340,000 veterans are out of work as of May 2017. Even though the unemployment rate for veterans has improved, there are still 340,000 Americans who have served their country with honor who can’t find a civilian job. Something has to change!
This is where organizations like the Foundation for VETS (Veteran Employment Transition Support) are stepping in to make a difference. They are helping veterans, employers, and the economy by working to reduce and remove barriers to civilian employment. One of the ways they do this is through intensive research that provides practical solutions to both veterans and employers alike.
This month, the Foundation for VETS launched a series of new studies to examine, and subsequently inform, the veteran employment transition landscape. This new research will answer many valuable questions including finding out what specifically are the most challenging aspects of the employment transition experience for veterans.
The great news is that everyone can help. The Foundation for VETS is looking for civilians, veterans, active-duty military, and human resource professionals to participate in an anonymous, 10-minute, online survey. This survey is being authored by four PhDs who are all professionals in the employment research space. The outcome of the research will lead to actionable solutions, not just services, for transitioning veterans.
If you are looking for a way to honor veterans and help in their transition, take 10 minutes and fill out this survey. Your input will be extraordinarily valuable.
What do you think? Did you take the survey? What do you feel are the greatest barriers to civilian employment for veterans? Why are there so many misconceptions about veterans? What can organizations like the Foundation for VETS do to help? Let me know in the comment section below.