Transitioning Home: Supporting Service Men and Women Looking for Work

U.S. & the Problem of Veteran Unemployment

For service men and women returning from active-duty, a period of unemployment is next to unavoidable. Most veterans make a non-negotiable trade in coming home: the sureties of military assignment in exchange for an uncertain spell of civilian unemployment. For many, landing a job signals full return home. But, for the 220,000 U.S. veterans still struggling to find work, civilian life is caught in limbo.

Unemployment numbers from the BLS indicate the job market facing these veterans is the toughest in generations. While U.S. unemployment hovered at 8.6% last winter, a full 12.1% of the 2.4 million Americans that served some form active duty since September 2001 were unemployed. For the first time in years, Americans with no military service background are more likely to have jobs than those that do

With an unemployment rate of 30% in 2011, U.S. veterans between the ages of 18-24 years were twice as likely to face joblessness than their non-veteran peers. This discrepancy sent an unlikely shock through our civic, corporate and congressional leaders. Today, as a result of this shock, the case for hiring veterans is buoyed by two new congressional bills and a dozen major corporate pledges to hiring veterans.

JP Morgan Chase Leads Corporate to Commit “100,000 Jobs”

In response to these disheartening unemployment numbers, business leaders have gotten busy launching programs to get U.S. veterans back to work. One project, led by JPMorgan Chase and a number of others, unites employers in a pledge to collectively hire, by 2020, 100,000 veterans. On March 31st, the “100,000 Jobs” coalition ended its first month already logging well over 12,000 new veteran hires.

The “100,000 Jobs” website provides job-seeking veterans access to local communities, career charts, expert resumes and employer advice. As a corporate initiative, “charity” is the wrong term for the “100,000 jobs” pledge and others like it. These efforts to get veterans back to work are more than gestures of due regard for the sacrifices of military personnel. Corporate hiring pledges point out something more obvious: U.S. employers believe in the qualifications of former U.S. service members.

Congress Can Agree: Rewarding U.S. Veteran Employment

Last fall Congress passed two pieces of legislation to improve veteran access to jobs. In November, Obama signed the “VOW to Hire Heroes Act” into law. The bill provides tax credits to employers that hire veterans:

  • $2,400 for hiring veterans out of work at least 4 weeks
  • $5,600 for hiring veterans out of work longer than 6 months
  • $9,600 for hiring veterans out of work longer than 6 months and suffering with a service-related disabilities

Within the month of the “Heroes Act”, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed The Veterans Opportunity to Work Act. And the provision that proves VOWA a milestone bill: specialized job-retraining programs for older veterans that have been out of work for 26 weeks. And with a little luck, these changed policies and attitudes may reverse the troubling trends of veteran disengagement.

Quick Tips for a Civilian Job-Hunt

Service members and their families know the civilian job hunt is one of the major trials of coming home. The stress of looking for a job (or failing to) can easily push a mind into the first stages of disengaging with civilian life. One therapy technique is to focus on accomplishing minor tasks. Today, I’ll read expert resumes online rather than finding and applying to 5 individual jobs. Begin a job search with minor but deliberate steps forward:

  • Consider nearly everything: Hundreds of new job titles show up in online postings every year. It’s not a good age to disregard a position because it isn’t immediately familiar. There’s a line somewhere, but it’s good to keep in mind that ‘Social Media Rockstar’ is just ‘internet’ for ‘Online Marketer’.
  • Hunt for non-traditional opportunities in the right places: Career fairs have gone virtual. One particularly active career-sourcing site is Milicruit. In one event last fall, Milicruit hosted representatives from 70 industry-leading employers to advertise their openings. Within 5 hours 23,000 veterans and spouses had browsed the listings.
  • Leverage specific skills to unrelated industries: Military training, particularly technical expertise, can set a veteran apart from other candidates. Preparing the reasoning of why it’s impressive and how the skill can be applied in new, unrelated contexts.

The Serious Job Still Ahead: Getting Veterans Back to Work

Lately, fewer military personnel are making long-term careers of their service. As a result, the capstone of most active-duty combat experiences is only an abrupt reentry into civilian life. By the end of 2014, 130,000 troops, many rounding off 3rd, 4th, and 5th tours, are due home for the semi-permanent future. If Army research gathered from recently returned troops is any indication, Americans can expect 31% of these service men and women to come home suffering from symptoms of PTSD or depression. As always, the ease of each transition home will hinge on the readiness of the communities and careers that receive them.

J.P. Morgan Chase, Congress and others are doing the logical work of matching veterans with the challenges they’ve already proven themselves willing and capable of overcoming.

This post is sponsored by Chase — a strong supporter of the 100,000 Jobs Mission, a program that helps find jobs for veterans of the US armed forces. Learn more here

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