Seven ways to support veterans transitioning out of the military and into meaningful employment

Richard Clinton veteranAs of 2017, more than 225,500 veterans were living in San Diego County, accounting for about 9.1% of the population ages 18 and older, which is higher than the national average of 7.3% of the adult population. 

The San Diego Workforce Partnership’s most recent study, Challenges and Opportunities for Veterans’ Transition to the Workforce, seeks to determine some of the strengths, weaknesses and challenges that veterans in San Diego County face throughout the process of transitioning out of the military and into meaningful employment in the civilian labor market.

Here are seven actionable recommendations from the study:

1. Senior management, specifically those within hiring roles, should be made more aware of the skills veterans possess

Often those involved in the hiring process have expectations relating to the skills veterans do and do not hold, for example, assuming a lack of interpersonal skills like verbal communication. Acknowledging and combating these preconceived notions will help more veterans enter quality, higher paying jobs.

2. Firms should actively seek veterans during their hiring process. Many employers interviewed noted they would be willing to hire more veteran applicants if they applied

While the onus to apply ultimately sits with veteran applicants, employers should be more proactive in disseminating job postings to veteran groups, aiming to expand the applicant pool.

3. Workforce development professionals should categorize veterans seeking civilian employment into three groups:

  • Those who want to continue with the type of work they did in the military, building upon the career pathway they started in the military.
  • Those who do not want to continue with the type of work they did in the military but have identified the type of work they want to transition towards in the civilian workforce.
  • Those who do not want to continue with the type of work they did in the military and have not yet identified the type of work they want to transition towards in the civilian workforce.

Each of these groups will require different types of career planning services and investments as they transition to civilian employment.

4. Skills crosswalks between military and civilian roles similar to those provided by O*NET should be revised, revamped, and/or remarketed

Enhancing user experience and translating technical and nontechnical skills gained during service into language more commonly used in the civilian workforce may lead to greater usage rates and, ideally, improved resumes (see recommendation 6 for more information).

5. Improvements in career planning for those who will soon exit, or have recently exited, the military must be enacted

A notable stumbling block for those who did not want to continue within a role similar to the one they retained in the military was they often did not have a specific career pathway or goal in mind, a vision of what it might entail, or the knowledge of the steps required to get there. Development of a career navigation tool should mitigate this issue.

6. Career preparation programs and courses should emphasize the importance of, as well as instruction on, tailoring resumes and cover letters to specific roles

Numerous employees mentioned that veteran applications frequently lacked specificity to the respective role, resulting in the application being put aside and no longer in consideration for employment. Skills such as verbal communication, leadership, strong work ethic, and general positive attitude in a demanding work environment were all commonly desired attributes employers seek in employees.

7. Programs should emphasize connecting recently or soon-to-be separated veterans with veterans who work in their field of interest as well as those veterans who have extensive experience in the civilian workforce

Networking with other veterans who have already undergone the transition process may provide support, insight and relevant perspective in addition to career exploration.