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.