Tech & Work

Advice for military vets seeking civilian jobs

U.S. military vets often face more employment obstacles than their civilian counterparts. Here are some things vets can do to overcome these issues.
The US military is arguably the best-trained workforce in the world, particularly when it comes to technology. So it kind of makes you wonder why the unemployment rate for vets is always a percentage or two higher than those for their civilian counterparts.

I will admit it's difficult to find data that is consistent. The U.S. Department of Labor publishes monthly percentage rates that seem to show a closing of the unemployment rate gap between vets and civilians. But that rate fluctuates wildly and is based on different subsets of data. (For example, the DoL said the unemployment rate for vets was 7.5% in January of 2013. Just one month before, in December 2012, it was 10%.)

If you look at the yearly stats, they bear out that vets consistently face a higher unemployment rate than civilians.

So what's up? Some believe there is discrimination against those who haven't been deployed yet—the reservists and those in the National Guard. Many employers just don't want to hire someone who'll have to leave or who they'll have to hold a job for.

Other employers are concerned with news reports they see involving PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As it is with any news, the bad examples get all the attention, and then people make general assumptions based on that. They think all vets are just time bombs waiting to go off.

This is a hard perception to fight. It's also unfair. Charles S. "Chick" Ciccolella, president of CSC Group LLC and former assistant secretary for Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) said "The fact is that once most veterans get into the workplace, they do extremely well and the statistics show that their overall unemployment rates are lower than their civilian counterparts."

So what can vets do to counter all of this? Here are some resources to keep in mind if you're a vet getting ready to step into the civilian workforce:

  1. The Department of Labor offers a Transition AssistanceProgram (TAP) with programs geared at helping veterans overcome employment hurdles. They include comprehensive three-day workshops at selected military installations nationwide. Professionally-trained workshop facilitators from the State Employment Services, military family support services, Department of Labor contractors, or VETS' staff present the workshops on job searches, career decision-making, current occupational and labor market conditions, and resume and cover letter preparation and interviewing techniques.
  2. There is also the Disabled Transition Assistance Program (DTAP). DTAP includes the normal three-day TAP workshop plus additional hours of individual instruction to help determine job readiness and address the special needs of disabled veterans.
  3. Be versed in your legal rights. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act USERRA protects civilian job rights and benefits for veterans and members of the active and Reserve components of the U.S. armed forces.


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

Sofia Grayson
Sofia Grayson

The companies and government don’t think that veterans are capable of work and can’t do the job because they serve the country and don’t have that qualification which help in the growth of the companies. Thus any companies have more focus on money making and don’t want to waste their money on training them, which is basically this is causing the high unemployment rate in the country

IT Recruiters
IT Recruiters

Perhaps the most important thing a veteran can do to make the transition to the private sector is find a mentor to offer guidance, insights and contacts. This is a way employers can help – assign a seasoned employee to take the newly-hired veteran under his or her tutelage. Serving in the military is a life-changing event. During service, veterans often obtain skills and training that make them valuable to employers. However, regardless of those skills, veterans deserve a place in American business. Hiring vets can be a win for everyone if both sides understand the fundamental differences between the military and private sector and determine ways to successfully integrate veterans into the workforce.

Than Nguyen


I went through this quite a while ago, in the years following the end of the Vietnamese conflict. Even then, there was considerable prejudice against returning vets (it was chic to trash us as 'baby killers' and junkies, not to mention the normal unbased fear about any reserve service obligation, specialization, and everything else that still applies today), and we had the same PTSD and health problems that my younger comrades face. 

My best advice to you is to KEEP TRYING. As one poster before me commented, try to translate your military experience into civilian terms and make the most of it. Did you learn leadership, teamwork, budgetary management, or supply? Say so. Did you have to learn how to make good decisions under terrible pressures? Find a way you're comfortable with to say so. God, my first resume was loaded with "fluffy", non-substantial stuff like that, which some of today's "resume counselors" might try to have you avoid. But it worked: I just maintained that attitude during the interviews.

Be aggressive yet polite, and whatever you do, don't give up: DoD should have trained you well to perservere in the face of all odds against you. They also should have trained you well in self-discipline -- make that show through in your life to the greatest degree you can: stay groomed, neatly-dressed, smiling (even if you don't feel quite like it), clean, courteous, and respectful of others until they give you reason not to do so.

Even civilians -- trained, experienced or not -- are having the same trouble getting jobs that you are in today's economy. You might have to take something you don't want to take for now; but then again, you should be accustomed to having certain distasteful duty. Remember: time passes. And if you make the best of it, others will learn about you -- your talents and your attitude.

Maybe undergrad or post-grad study might make survival possible for some.

But perhaps the best advice I can give anyone -- returning military or not -- is to shine as brightly as you can every day; stay as positive as you know how to, even in the face of adversity. You know how to do that.


 There is another factor which this article fails to address. In the past, military training, especially in the technology fields, was highly specialized, and often irrelevant to the civilian business world. 

Advanced knowledge of sophisticated technology is only useful if that technology has a civilian use, and in the past this was often not the case, because so much military technology was unique and highly specialized.

This has not been true for many years, as the military has widely adopted the same standard hardware and software systems which the business world uses, and computer software has been able to take over many functions which were previously handled by specialized hardware, but the perception of veterans as having knowledge that's too specialized and irrelevant still lingers.


This article is useful as far as it goes, but it actually gives very little real advice. From my own and others' experience in the UK, I would advise that you use your CV/Resume to emphasize your particular skills (initiative, teamwork, adaptability, specialised skills, etc) and and the same time playing down what may be perceived as weaknesses (lack of higher qualifications, bad reputation and so on)


OK, lets give some advice:  

The TAP program:  I did not go through the TAP program, I was sent to an Air force equivalent out processing program that had the same features.  If these two programs are equal than what I can say about TAP is that as of April 2012 they really need to have more instruction on resume writing, cover letter writing and interview techniques.  This was almost non existent, the problem much of the force has is making the work we did transition into the civilian force.  TAP, work on that.

If the headline reads "Advice for military vets seeking civilian jobs" some advice should be given.  Such as: 

Do not use a for pay resume writing service.  Many of these entities are charging exorbitant amounts of money and using people who are not well versed in writing resumes especially military to civilian.

Not all headhunters are bad:  Many companies, such as Orion international actually can help with getting that first interview. 

Before going on an interview:  Sit down with a relative or someone you know to do a mock interview.  Write up questions about the company that your interviewing with and have that person ask you questions. It will help when the time comes.  

If you need questions that others were asked from a particular company then go to and check it out.  

Practice, Practice, Practice, not using military jargon.  DFAC, MOS, APFT, IR, TTP, all those acronyms are out the window.  Get civilian lingo educated.  You don't want to lose a first interview because you're not understood. 

Set up an account on Linkedin:  Many, many people are getting good leads through for jobs, actually that is how I received my employment, through a recruiter on

Each resume needs to be justified for the job being applied.  Many prior service (and civilians) make the mistake of using one "catch all" resume for many different jobs.  But, if you're a 92A, which covers many different CIVILIAN job titles, that MOS and all of its glory cannot be used in a resume for each different type of logistic/ supply job on the civilian side.   

There are military friendly employers.  Some being,, csx, bnsf the railroad (take your pick), and many others.  Use which has a search link for positions with friendly employers.  

Get your degree!  Get your degree, get your degree!  Enough said about degrees. 

Check out the military website  BEFORE your separate or retire.  This site has information you need on certificates needed for your civilian career.  Logistics? Then get your PMP!  

If you are about to separate and have not saved money, start now!  The experts say 3 months of salary, but really, in todays market more like 6 months of equivalent salary should be in your savings, which is hard to get with our pay!  

Thanks for the article.  

OH and to all those military, God bless and GOOD LUCK! 

SFC (RET) Jim B.


THX Tori,

Alas the ' fears ' of the employers are to great and completely exaggerated

The general assumptions , ticking 'time' bombs or worse.

My point is : Who came up this primary statement about us?

Wasn't it the Government who put THIS label on us after we put OUR lives at stake ?

As stated somewhere else.

Denial is a river in Egypt.

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