After more than a decade at war, our military is facing another turning point in 2014 with the drawdown of our forces from Afghanistan and a continuation of the harsh fiscal realities of the federal budget. This will undoubtedly result in further declines in the end strength of our military services, which means we can expect to see more talented veterans looking for a career transition.
While there’s been a lot of support from companies advocating the employment of our troops after they leave active duty service, too many veterans remain unemployed.
According to the latest unemployment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the unemployment rate for veterans hovered at 6.7 percent, which is on-par with the non-veteran rate at 6.4 percent. But that only tells part of the story. The unemployment rate for veterans who served after 9/11 is a staggering 9.9 percent.
While the BLS data does not break down the ages, traditionally this age group would be the younger enlisted troops and officer corps — the age where young adults are beginning to establish their careers. Instead, too many are struggling to make the transition from military service to the private sector.
While companies that support the defense industrial base already employ a higher percentage of warfighters than most, we can do better. Companies in the world of C4ISR must review our hiring standards to make sure we have the right practices in place to hire these young heroes. At the same time, defense companies could also provide leadership to the civilian sector by showcasing what veterans bring to the team.
There are some encouraging signs. Sears Holdings Company has committed to hiring more than 6,500 veterans in 2014, pushing the company’s veteran employment to over 30,000. “Sears Holdings recognizes that our nation’s servicemen and women possess unique skill sets and leadership qualities difficult to find anywhere else,” Sears’ vice president of talent acquisition and diversity commented when announcing the hiring push.
As many of us know first-hand, men and women in uniform offer bring unique and valuable skills: attention to detail, strong management and organizational standards, leadership, loyalty and and bar-none technical expertise and understanding. These don’t always translate well onto a résumé, so we should work to help veterans to understand the value of their service goes well beyond seemingly mundane tasks such as “driving a tank.”
One promising idea is to establish a “military liaison” within the organization’s hiring apparatus. This person would be someone who’s worked for or with the military and who can help review military résumés and translate their skills into the needs of that company. If you were to ask around your organization, my guess is your current veterans would jump at the chance to advise fellow vets.
Some may argue the jobseeker needs to make these connections in their own because companies don’t have the resources or time to dig deeper to understand the relevant skills. But ask yourself: Is this too much to do for people who’ve put their lives on the line so you don’t have to?