Veterans entering the civilian jobs market can face hurdles

During my time in the military, one of the various jobs I had was working as a single-channel radio operator in a “RATT rig”–essentially, a big metal box crammed with radio equipment mounted on the back of a Humvee. There is no analogous job in the civilian word; none, at least, that I’ve ever heard of. Nevertheless, in the course of these and other jobs, I did learn about serving as part of a team, some leadership responsibilities and the fine art of working with people from wildly different backgrounds.

Many veterans struggle with translating their military experience into a civilian-sector job. Helping to maintain equipment on a battleship, for example, has no obvious equivalent in the private-sector economy. A number of initiatives have been undertaken in recent years to help vets in this regard, including Monster’s “Military Skills Translator,” which is designed to translate the skills acquired in an M.O.S. (military occupational specialty) into civilian equivalents.

The unemployment rate among veterans today is lower than that for the general population. Even so, finding jobs that match up with their skills and experience is often a challenge. LinkedIn’s 2019 Veteran’s Opportunity Report finds that, despite having four or more years of experience than civilians applying for the same role, vets with degrees are less likely to land the job. They’re also 70% more likely to take a step back in seniority when moving into the civilian workforce. The survey finds that, in industries such as accounting, where veterans are 11% more likely to apply, they’re 62% less likely to be hired.

LinkedIn recently profiled Ritchie Thomas, a former encryption specialist in the Army whose six years of service included helping Special Forces units rescue POWs in Colombia. After getting out, Thomas was certain his skills and experience would help him land a decent job, but he was in for a rude awakening: After sending out 50 copies of his resume and getting nothing, he took a low-level job swapping out printer cartridges that paid $14 an hour–a far cry from his original goal of working as an IT manager.

“It was a nightmare,” said Thomas, who eventually landed a much better job. “I hated every part of that first job. I felt so mediocre.”

Ironically, vets tend to have, on average, three times more experience than non-veteran job applicants and are 160% more likely to have a graduate degree, LinkedIn research finds. And, once hired, they’re also 39% more likely to move into a leadership role than their civilian counterparts within three years of being hired.

Some companies get it: Monster has just announced its fifth annual Best Companies for Veterans list, primarily in the IT, government, security, IT and consulting industries. The list is based on nominations by veteran hiring experts and self-reported data from the nominees on hiring and onboarding practices, with a focus on the percentage of 2019 hires that were veterans and the total percentage of the workforce composed of veterans, Monster says.

Here’s the 2019 list:

  1. DynCorp International
  2. Intelligent Waves
  3. CACI
  4. American Systems
  5. LMI
  6. PRISM
  7. MSA Security
  8. U.S. Customs and Border Protection
  9. IntelliDyne
  10. AbleVets

“There is no debate about the value those who have served bring to our economy and civilian workforce,” says Monster CEO Scott Gutz. “All of the companies highlighted on this year’s list recognize and celebrate that value.”

Andrew R. McIlvaine
Andrew R. McIlvaine is former senior editor with Human Resource Executive®.