How Veterans Adjust To The Civilian Workforce

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November 11, 2016
By Karsten Strauss
From Forbes.com

Unemployment for those veterans who have served in the Post 9/11 era is on the decline – it stood at 5.8% in 2015, image of veterans paradeaccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, down 1.4% from the previous year.

But despite declines in unemployment, those transitioning from military service to the U.S. workforce face some challenges.

To get a better understanding of those issues, we looked to a recent survey focusing on veterans searching for jobs conducted by iCIMS, a talent-acquisition firm based in New Jersey. The company’s survey was put together between August 22 and August 29 with help from Wakefield Research and uses responses from 708 Post 9/11 veterans using an email invitation and an online survey distributed by RecruitMilitary, a military-focused jobs recruitment agency.

Looking For Work

According to veterans in the jobs market, the top two reasons vets have turned down or not pursued some positions as they search for employment has been that they were disappointed by salary and benefits offered, and that they felt they lacked the training or education to handle the work.

Those reasons may seem unremarkable among job-hunters, but they take on a different hue when applied to vets, says Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer and workplace expert at iCIMS. Military personnel, she told FORBES, are used to having benefits like housing, for example, paid for and budgeting for it in civilian life takes some getting used to. “Salary and benefits do impact this community a little bit more specifically than people might have always been out there (in the private sector) and have always had these expenses.”

As far as education and training are concerned, some veterans entered the military without receiving a college degree, which can cause issues when weighing job opportunities that require such qualifications, said Vitale. “Oftentimes these screening questions during a career application process might require some of these things on paper, or electronically, if you will, but in reality we’d question if that’s really necessary.”

Experience accrued in the military, though not a direct equivalent, could supply the types of skills employers feel a college education is necessary to attain, Vitale explained. “They are learning really import skills that are transferable, that oftentimes are the highest on the list of hiring managers; things like leadership and problem-solving skills and the ability to think on your feet, to work together and collaborate.”

Veterans also feel unsure of how to sell themselves in a job interview, and 28% of survey respondents said as much. That fear, it seems, comes from emerging from a military life where such practices are simply not required.

Friction With Hiring Managers

According to iCIMS’s survey, 41% of respondents said that hiring managers simply do not understand what kind of experiences a veteran has earned while in the military and how they transfer to a private sector career. Meanwhile, veterans themselves are not effective at communicating how their experience and skills are applicable. “If the employer is unsure and the exiting military member is unsure,” explains Vitale, “everybody’s sort of left in the dark.”

Additionally, 37% of respondents said they felt that hiring managers “devalue” a veteran’s military experience. That sentiment, says Vitale, could be due in part to employers declining to place their qualifications on par with those who have attended college. Half of those surveyed said they felt their military service would be an impediment to finding a job outside of the armed forces.

Adjusting To Non-Military Jobs

Of all respondents who found work after leaving the military, 59% said they have fewer advancement opportunities than they’d expected, 58% said the work they do is less meaningful than their jobs in the military and 54% said they felt overqualified for their positions.

Vitale says some of that has to do with the types of jobs vets wind up getting. “Security officers, for example,” she explained. “People just assume that’s a great position for exiting military. Although that might absolutely be true, that might not be what gets somebody who’s exiting the military passionate about the civilian workforce.”

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