Veterans Jobs: A Veteran State of Affairs and Finding Career Success

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When someone enlists in the U.S. military, their future becomes a tangled web of uncertainty, victory, hope, dread, and a chance for a brighter future. It's mesmerizing, exciting, scary, and overwhelming. Being deployed overseas means automatic hero status, with echoes of well-wishes from back home offering strength and motivation to carry on.

Surviving to tell the tale of their travels and experience earns the national spotlight as eager ears lean in to hear how their freedoms have been extended because of the sacrifices of others.

So why does the script flip once these former heroes move on to the next phase of their lives? Why do their needs fade to black when the results of their efforts continue providing freedom for all?

But perhaps more importantly, what is being done to combat this lack of stewardship for veterans once their services are no longer needed?

There is a greater push, now more than ever, to help veterans find career success as a civilian.

Joblessness for veterans continues to be an issue today. The good news is that there's now a greater push now than ever before to help veterans find career success as a civilian, and it seems to be working.

The Current State of Joblessness for Veterans

In 2011, unemployment for young veterans (ages 18-24) reached an alarming 29%. Vets in this age category were 3.4% more likely to be unemployed than their non-veteran peers. In 2012, the standard unemployment rate for all veterans topped out at 12.1%

Fast forward to 2017, where the story's undergone significant edits. General unemployment for all veterans dropped to a record low of just 4.3%. For comparison, national unemployment figures around this time hovered near 4.9%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Part of this drastic decrease in veteran unemployment comes from a massive shift in focus from both government officials and public outcry. In 2009, then-president Barack Obama signed the Veteran's Employment Initiative, giving federal agencies a push toward hiring veterans for government positions. Just five years later, more than 250,000 veterans had been hired.

In recent years, Starbucks announced a bold initiative to hire 10,000 servicemen and servicemen and their spouses. Others companies like Walmart, Coca-Cola, and CVS have since followed suit, but their fervent support may not be the win it appears.

Combating Unemployment with Underemployment

It paints a decent picture, having veteran unemployment lower than the national average, but pictures can be deceiving. For veterans, it's not just a matter of being employed versus unemployed, but rather considering the added factor of underemployment.

Data doesn't tell the whole story regardless veteran joblessness because it doesn't take into account where vets have found their employment.

Veterans looking for job placement often take civilian positions that are easy to come by, such as bartending or waiting tables, while waiting for their breakout opportunity.

job interview man

Former servicemen and servicewomen often have much higher capability than entry-level jobs require. Many of them have experience managing people and assets. They've led teams, developed strategies, and leveraged critical thinking and analytical skills all in a day's work.

But the fact remains that this extensive military training is being severely underutilized in the civilian job market.

Big-name brands like Amazon, Walmart, Starbucks, and McDonald's aren't keeping their veteran hiring initiatives a secret. They're proactively pursuing this slice of the workforce to fill store positions and contribute to the declining veteran unemployment rate.

But not everyone is applauding their efforts. True, veterans are easily hired through these companies. True, getting hired here means a drop in veteran unemployment. But these opportunities are rarely satisfying and do little to nothing to take advantage of valuable military skills and experience.

The Future Looks Bright

It's been slow going, but companies are continuing to recognize the vitalness and benefits of hiring veterans. They're realizing that veterans are disciplined, trainable, loyal, and deeply committed. Even veterans without college degrees or training in a particular skill set are finding career success in desirable fields, while others are pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities and creating their own successes.

Unemployment nationwide remains unchanged from the new year at just 4.1%, a far cry from nearly 10% at the start of the decade. Though just over a month into 2018, there's already a noticeable energy for job growth throughout the country, of which veterans are sure to get a piece.

woman veteran table coworkers

What Obstacles Do Vets Face in Finding Civilian Employment?

Despite noble efforts from hundreds of companies on a veteran hiring spree, vets still face plenty of challenges in finding civilian employment. While some vets find themselves in a job search struggle, others become embattled with holding onto their employment status.

The obstacles are many and the solutions aren't so easily recognized, which makes difficult work for both veterans and employers to strike the best balance.

Civilian Disconnect

One of the biggest challenges veterans face is the unavoidable disconnect between themselves and civilians. Military work environments differ strongly from civilian work culture. Leading troops into battle or strategizing a secret mission are enviable (and respectable) experiences, but many vets may overestimate how these skills can carry over into the workplace.

Many veterans don't anticipate the learning curve that comes with transitioning into traditional careers. Some may see their time in the military as the most challenging work they'll ever perform, and to a degree they may be right. But that mindset doesn't necessarily prepare them for what to expect when they transition into the workforce, regardless of what kind of work they're doing.

On the other side of this same coin, civilians who have never served may feel that giving veterans an easier entry into the workforce puts educated, degree-earning workers at a disadvantage. Those who have worked their own way up the ranks in a company did so through hard work and dedication and may see veteran preferentiality as workplace unfairness.

veteran wheelchair man

Physical or Mental Alterations

PTSD, mental health issues, loss of limb, or severe injuries can limit a veteran's ability to secure employment post-service.

Employers may be wary of hiring veterans because of the potential for undiagnosed health issues stemming from their service.

Others may be unable to determine a veteran's ability to work with physical limitations.

Exploring Incentive Programs for Businesses to Hire Veterans

In addition to Obama's Veterans Employment Initiative, several other incentive programs for businesses to hire veterans have emerged, and employers aren't being shy about taking advantage of them.

Tax Credits

Tax credits at both the state and federal levels give employers an attractive incentive to hire vets. The scale here can get complicated, as many factors go into determining how much of a tax credit an employer is eligible for.

For example, a company may receive up to $5,600 for hiring an unemployed veteran. That amount nearly doubles if the veteran is a Wounded Warrior.

Special Employers Incentive (SEI) Program

The SEI program helps connect qualified veterans with a specific role in an organization. Veterans who complete the program do so with the expectation of remaining with the company. Employers receive up to half of the veteran's salary to cover costs associated with training, supplies and any loss of productivity.

Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment

The VA provides vocational training for veterans to make them more employable in civilian jobs. Employers may be able to receive salary subsidies and other helpful resources that make hiring a veteran with a service-related disability easier.

U.S. Department of Labor

The United States Department of Labor has assembled a toolkit for employers looking to hire veterans. The toolkit provides information related to recruiting talent, job training, workplace accommodations, and retention to help employers create an environment conducive to vets.

In Closing

Joblessness among veterans still remains an issue, but it's one that's gaining nationwide attention and traction. Several companies have already stepped up in helping to reduce veteran unemployment, and there's no reason not to expect this trend to continue.

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