The job market is not kind to veterans, most would agree.
Ex-army employment stats are picking up; according to Forbes, the top sectors for veteran employment include information technology, sales and – rather surprisingly – customer service. In 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a near 50% reduction in veteran unemployment compared to ten years before.
However, in general, those who once fought for their country continue to have more trouble finding employment than their peaceable compatriots. So what’s the problem, and what’s being done to solve it?
What can a veteran offer a business that a ‘civilian’ might not? The experience of service can range from superficial to rewarding, and certainly army lingo on a CV will only bemuse a recruiter. There must be some buzzwords that veterans can use to sell themselves to a hiring manager.
Well, yes. Fighting for your country proves you have the mental stamina and personal dedication necessary for many high-stress jobs. It’s also an environment that demands soft skills as well as strong problem-solving abilities.
Sounds like waffle? It’s not. The above skills are highly sought-after in fields ranging from operations research analysis, informational security and management consultancy to financial advice and nursing. As such, veterans should theoretically make excellent recruits in these sectors.
So if veterans are such a valuable commodity, why are they lagging behind in the employment statistics?
The answer is partly recruiters and partly communication. A recent iCIMS/RecruitMilitary study found that 37% of veterans feel their military experience is devalued in the recruiting experience, while 28% think military skills are hard to apply to civilian jobs. As a result, almost half of veterans have either excluded or played down their military experience on a CV in an effort to look more positive on paper.
Perhaps that’s why major companies across the board are making efforts to engage with this undermined resource. Global consulting firm PwC, named recently as one of the top five veteran employers by Military Times, has created an internal ‘playbook’ for its recruiters, detailing what to look for in military CVs and translating skills into civilian terms.
“We train recruiters on what to look for,” says Chris Crace, the company’s veterans advocacy leader. “We’re teaching them to be able to interpret and read between the lines.”
According to a similar British poll, the effects of military service itself may also play a part. In Britain, veterans are almost twice as likely to report a limiting long-term illness such as depression, back problems, poor hearing or sight and other physiological issues – a statistic that almost certainly extends to vets across the world.
If anything’s going to affect your job prospects more than a history in the service, it’s a physical or mental ailment. Perhaps poor veteran employment is more down to issues with disability than anything else.
The good news? Things are being done for veterans on either side of the Atlantic. Ubiquitous job-search site LinkedIn has created a special ‘LinkedIn for Veterans’, aimed at helping ex-servicemen and women connect with new opportunities and seek out mentorship. Over a hundred thousand veterans have so far got involved, building a powerful network.
For the last few years, first-person shooter Call of Duty has been releasing personalization packs for their ever-popular franchise of games. The profits from downloads of these packs go towards the Call of Duty Endowment, which gives logistical and financial support to non-profits seeking to alleviate veteran unemployment.
More officially, changes in the U.S. government budget mean that veterans will now be eligible for grants of up to $80,000 to help them retrain after service. These funds will go towards the college, university or technical education courses that will enable ex-soldiers for career transition. Across the pond, the UK’s Ministry of Defence runs a Career Transition Partnership to aid vets looking for post-service employment.
The success of these schemes is debatable. Says Mark Maycroft, an ex-marine, of the MoD’s efforts: “If you look at [veterans] as people they are very well developed, but put that down on paper, and for someone to hire them, it’s actually quite hard work…. I didn’t find [the Career Transition Partnership] very useful so I went off on my own. I think the Ministry of Defense should be doing more. The schemes have the right idea but they’re not fulfilling that role.”
What’s the upshot? While there’s still a way to go towards equalizing ex-soldiers’ chances on the job circuit, the statistics show we’re getting there. It’s just a question of dropping the military jargon and seeing new-made veterans for what they are: fresh recruits.