Veterans entering the civilian jobs market can face hurdles

Despite often having more experience and education than their civilian counterparts, vets still struggle to land good jobs.
By: | November 11, 2019 • 3 min read

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.

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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.”

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