Life After The Military: Getting a Job

Employers + Veterans = A Good Match

Perhaps your business has considered hiring veterans. Many have, but there are reasons many businesses haven’t jumped the gun on this hiring option. One reason is that they don’t know where to find qualified veterans. Another reason is that employers aren’t sure if veterans’ skills will translate smoothing into a civilian position. Still another reason is that there can negative stereotypes about veterans.

So why was the 2011 jobless rate among veterans who served post-9/11 at a whopping 12.1 percent? (It’s worth mentioning here that some war veterans groups have stated jobless rates to be as high as 17 percent. And with soldiers coming home from overseas on a steady basis, and plans to thin out the military ranks in the upcoming few years, the problem could get much worse.) And why are those men and women who are coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq still struggling so much to obtain good jobs?

It’s a mystery as study after study has proven that businesses don’t even have to use sympathy or patriotic duty as a reason to hire veterans. It’s actually a good decision that will benefit their business in the long run. Veterans aren’t just good employees, they often end up being some of the very best. Interview with leaders of businesses that have hired veterans report that it was one of the best moves their company made. The reasons they give are generally linked directly to the veteran’s experience and knowledge gained while in the service. They bring with them a wealth of knowledge and skills. And that is good for a company’s bottom line.
Whatever the reason, it’s certainly something your business should consider. Military veterans today are not only loyal and reliable, but they have excellent skills. They are strong-minded, dependable individuals who have skills for adapting well to any situation—including your place of business.

Why Do Veterans Make Such Valuable Employees?

Let’s take a look at what other skills military veterans offer that are very transferable to the civilian workplace. Veterans learned a lot of skills during their term of service, including:

• Accountability

• Adaptability

• Critical thinking

• Integrity

• Interpersonal communications

• Leadership

• Multiethnic awareness

• Courtesy

• Problem-solving skills

• Respect for rules

• Teamwork skills

• Willingness to learn new skills and concepts

• Work ethic

• Grace under pressure

• And others, including those they may have learned or earned before they entered the service.

Other skills reported by business leaders include the versatility of veterans. They are used to structure and policy, but they think quickly on their feet and they can adapt to workplace situations. Often they have leadership skills and teamwork skills that blow their civilian fellow employees out of the water because of what they learned in the military. Loyalty is another huge factor in the positive experience reported by businesses that have made it their business to hire veterans. Loyalty generally means less turnover, which saves a company money.

What Is the Hold-Up When It Comes to Hiring Veterans? With all the positivity surrounding the hiring of veterans in the civilian world, why aren’t more being hired? It sounds like a win-win. So what is the problem?

There are a few issues that hold businesses back from hiring veterans. Here are some of the more obvious ones:
Businesses worry that veterans will decide to redeploy, leaving their civilian employers in a tough spot because they will leave for a long period of time.
Others worry that the skill set of veterans won’t translate into the skill set they need in the civilian workplace.

One particularly troubling reason businesses avoid hiring veterans is that they are worried about the mental health of those returning from service, especially those coming back from active duty. They worry—whether or not that worry is grounded in fact—that veterans will go on a “rampage” while back in civilian employment.

There is, of course, nothing new with this kind of stigma attached to veterans (Look back at those who returned from Vietnam, for instance.), and it is true there are cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that have hit this generation of soldiers rather hard in some instances. But it is unfair for this to have a negative impact on their prospects for employment.
There’s also a practical reason employers should think about hiring veterans to fill their next job openings. Tax credits in the form of Veteran's Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, which offers two different types of tax credits for employers. Then there is the Returning Heroes Tax Credit, which provides an incentive for businesses to hire veterans who have been unemployed for a length of time. And the Wounded Warrior Tax Credit gives employers a tax credit for hiring long-term unemployed veterans with disabilities relating to their service.

How Can Businesses Actually Find and Hire Veterans?

Let’s say that businesses decide they want to commit to adding unemployed veterans to their work force. They have overcome the concerns they might have initially. That said, however, there is a bigger problem when it comes to businesses finding and hiring veterans, and it’s a practical reason. Businesses struggle to find out how they can connect with veterans who are looking for work. There is a glut of websites and resources that are supposed to help them connect with veterans, but they actually hinder the process. Unfortunately, the rush to provide assistance to the process actually ended up burying the process instead. The one possible solution is a single database run by the government where information and resources can be found in one spot. It is surprising to realize that this does not yet exist when it seems like it should be a no-brainer to have something like this in place.

Experts point out that there is more involved in hiring veterans than simply posting a notice that you are going to do so. Not only are employers skeptical of the process, but so are the veterans themselves. So what are the first steps?

First, an organization must consciously commit to hiring and retaining veterans. Every person in every department at every level of the organization must commit. Training might even be necessary for hiring and HR managers as there are certain intricacies involved with hiring and supporting veterans. Other considerations, such as adding support for veterans and increasing workplace flexibility, might also be essential for a program of hiring to be successful.

Next up is trust—and how it must be established in the veteran community. Businesses need to be visible about their new hiring practices among both veterans and veteran organizations.
Trust-building is a process and it will take place over time. Once you’ve decided to become a veteran friendly employer, you need to ensure your commitment is visible—on your website, for one. Highlight an organization that welcomes and actively pursues veterans.

Reaching out to the veterans group in your area isn’t difficult. Almost all communities have veteran-related groups. And if your business is located near a military base, reach out to them directly. Here are some additional tips:

• Reach out to the Local One-Stop Career Center, and get in touch with their Local Veterans Employment Representative (LVER) or the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program (DVOP) Specialist.

• Host a booth at a job fair that has military vets as a target. Look for them via an online search or check out a veteran friendly site, such as Recruit Military or Vet Jobs.

• Network at local veteran organizations. Put recruitment flyers up.

• Look for veteran-specific job boards and post job ads.

• Post job openings on your business’ website career section.

• Check out, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It’s a site where veterans can post resumes and businesses can post job openings.
Remember to mention your veteran-friendly organizational culture in your job postings.

Recap—Hiring Veterans

Let’s recap good reasons veterans should be considered the next time you have job openings in your company:

• Vets have already proven that they have the ability to learn new skills and new concepts quickly. They have skills that are identifiable and transferable to the civilian world. They have already been proven to achieve success.

• Vets are fully aware of the importance of both health and safety standards. They are conscientious. What this means for your business is that they protect self, others, and property.

• Vets work well with others. They have already proven that they can work respectfully and cooperatively alongside others of different races, ethnicities, genders, religions, as well as mental and physical capabilities.

• They perform well under pressure. Perhaps like no other group, vets shave shown they have the capacity to be able to accomplish things—regardless of adversity or stress. Dedication and perseverance are tenets of their work ethic.

• Veterans have integrity. They have repeatedly shown what it means to work hard. They are sincere and trustworthy.

• Veterans make great leaders. They can manage and achieve their goals under even the most difficult circumstances. The can lead by example. They can also lead through motivation and inspiration.

• They are respectful and accountable. They know how the rules work; they understand procedures. They follow both to stay safe and to maintain productivity.

• Let’s not forget the tax Incentives. The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 was put into place November 21, 2011, and it offers an expanded Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to employers that hire eligible unemployed veterans. The credit is also available to some organizations that are tax exempt. The credit is quite generous, going as high as $9,600 per veteran for a for-profit employers or up to $6,240 for tax-exempt organizations. The amount of the credit will depend on certain factors, such as the length of the veteran’s unemployment before he or she was hired, the number of hours a veteran works, and the amount of wages paid in the first year. Businesses that hire veterans who have service-related disabilities might qualify for the maximum amount of credit.

• Veterans understand the concept of teamwork, and how important it is to join together with others to work together to achieve the best outcome.

• Veterans have a unique global perspective not many other employees do. They are also up to date on international and technological trends that impact business. They bring a global outlook needed in today’s world.

• They know what it means to triumph over adversity. They have perseverance, determination, and strength.

Final Comments on Hiring Veterans as Employees

What are you waiting for? All evidence points to the fact that veterans make valuable employees. If there is more effort involved in the hiring process—as well recruiting—it is worth it in the long run. A little more effort at the start could mean long-term benefits for your business. So just do it!

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