Why Veterans Don't Get Hired -- And How to Change That


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The "boots on the ground" overseas are coming home looking for a job and finding it hard to get a foot in the door. Three million vets have already transitioned from military life over the past ten years, and many struggle to find a job after active service. And the challenge is growing: an estimated 1 million more service members will be moving into the civilian job market by 2017, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Returning to the civilian workforce with leadership skills, discipline and teamwork abilities, it's a wonder this vast talent pool suffers a higher unemployment rate than their civilian peers. The jobless rate for post 9/11 veterans climbed to 10.1% in September, compared to an overall national unemployment rate of 7.2%, according to the Labor Department.

Why do veterans go unhired? The Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank concerned with national security issues, examined veteran employability in June of last year, by conducting interviews of 87 individuals representing 69 companies. The firms claimed these challenges in hiring veterans:

  • Skills transfer. Civilian companies don't always understand what jobs veterans performed in the military and how those skills and experiences might transfer to meet a company's hiring needs.
  • Stereotypes. Employers reported concerns about the possible lingering effects of combat stress, anger management and tendencies toward violence. And while some companies appreciate the discipline of a military background, other employers worry about the possible "rigidity" of veterans.
  • Future deployments. Some employers are concerned that veterans, especially those who serve in the National Guard or Reserves, will have to take extended leave for long or repeated deployments.
  • Transition. Some companies reported a belief that veterans require time after military service to adjust to civilian life, and might require a period of transition.
  • Finding veterans. Some companies simply reported difficulty in locating veterans looking to be hired.

In an effort to address these challenges, nearly a dozen companies launched the 100,000 Jobs Mission in 2011, with a goal of collectively hiring at least 100,000 veterans by 2020. As of the end of the third quarter this year, the coalition had grown to 121 companies and had already hired nearly 93,000 vets.

The group has since doubled its commitment and now aims to hire a total of 200,000 veterans within the next seven years. Its website, JobsMission.com, offers veterans access to profiles of companies committed to hiring returning service members, a talent exchange database, as well as tips, resources and jobs announcements.

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

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