November 12, 2012
Battling to get more vets in the workforce
It’s one of the most disheartening statistics in the job market’s slow recovery.
As the nation’s unemployment rate dipped below 8 percent in September, joblessness for post-Sept. 11 veterans was nearly 10 percent.
And younger female soldiers now in civilian life? Nearly 1 in 5 are unemployed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“There are a lot of companies that say they want veterans, but that conflicts with the unemployment numbers,” says Hakan Jackson, who was a biomedical equipment technician in the Air Force from 2000 to 2012. Jackson, 31, believes it’ll be easier to find a job after completing MBA studies at Boston University.
TIPS FOR VETERANS
Demilitarize your resume. Avoid acronyms that are alien to civilians. Have someone not in the military review it. Find a way to explain how your military experience would apply to a corporate environment.
During interviews, be sure to state you’re a veteran; they’ll be more likely to remember you, particularly if you’re a woman.
While networking, if someone tells you they’d like to help you, take them up on it by sending them an email.
Consider working for a franchise. “What’s really great is that the military is all about following orders. It’s all about executing a plan that’s already been thought out,” said Meg Schmitz, a Morton Grove, Ill., FranChoice Inc. consultant who matches veterans to franchises. “The reason they could do really well in franchising is that franchising is all about following an established recipe.”
Last year, the International Franchise Association announced a campaign to get veterans jobs and franchisee ownership; 75,000 spots for veterans and military spouses and another 5,000 for injured vets by 2014. So far through the effort, 15,000 have been placed, including 4,200 new franchisees. CiCi’s Pizza, Popeyes, Jiffy Lube and Papa John’s are among those waiving franchise fees for vets.
Apply for jobs at companies open to vets. Among the nearly three dozen companies that exhibited at the MBA Veterans Network event in Chicago were Google, Wells Fargo, Accenture, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Clorox, Target, PNC, Deloitte, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
There is some good news for the 1 million veterans expected to leave the armed forces over the next four years: Corporate America is increasingly professing a desire to hire veterans, saying they value certain qualities that former soldiers bring to the workplace.
Earlier this year, Internet search giant Google Inc. named Harry Wingo -- a Yale law school graduate who spent six years as a Navy SEAL -- its veteran community programs manager to ramp up efforts to hire more former soldiers.
In October, Chicago-based Boeing Co. and three other industrial companies formed a coalition to train veterans in 10 states for advanced manufacturing positions that often go unfilled because job candidates lack the skills. Last year, New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. helped found the 100,000 Jobs Mission, which has a goal of hiring that many service members worldwide by 2020.
University of Chicago MBA student Bryson DeTrent, 29, who was in the National Guard for 12 years and has helped lead special operations in 16 countries, including Afghanistan, thinks there are four key reasons why vets, particularly women, haven’t found jobs:
* It’s too easy to collect unemployment.
* Many women are planning to start families or make up for time lost.
* Many companies are nervous about hiring National Guard and reservists because the military could pull them from work.
* Younger vets become dependent on the military’s structured environment and have difficulty adjusting to the civilian work environment.
Erik Sewell, who is also studying for an MBA from the University of Chicago, said many military professionals often don’t market themselves effectively or convey adequately how transferable their skills, including vehicle maintenance and computer database management, are to the civilian world.
“Many make the mistake of thinking that since those duties were performed in a war zone or training for a war zone, they should just forget everything they did, and start over from scratch in the civilian world,” the West Point graduate says.
Sewell, a 7-footer who recently turned 28, said more companies need to follow in Home Depot’s steps. He said the retailer has an online translator that is part of its job application process. He said he typed in “field artillery officer” and up popped several examples of how that experience could be applied at Home Depot.
“It would be great to see more companies utilize tools like this, and more veterans taking the time to learn how to communicate their skills more effectively,” Sewell says.
Steve Calk, chief executive of Chicago-based Federal Savings Bank, said about 10 percent of the bank’s employees are veterans like himself. To help smooth the transition, Calk says, the bank assigns those hires with military mentors.
The biggest challenge many veterans face is that they don’t think they’re qualified for jobs that are posted by the bank, Calk says.
“They have a true desire to be trained and are more committed to success and better at working as a team,” says Calk, who is working with the city and Harold Washington College to develop a curriculum for returning veterans and other citizens to enter and become qualified for entry-level positions in banking.
For female veterans, the transition into the civilian workforce is even more difficult. For one thing, female veterans tend to not even identify themselves as veterans, says Amy Amizich, women veterans’ program coordinator for the state of Illinois. Some didn’t serve in combat or spent only a year or two in the service and don’t think they rate the title, Amizich says. Others, she added, simply want to distance themselves from traumatic experiences related to military service.
“That’s something we struggle with,” Amizich says. “That makes it very hard for us to provide them with resources and assistance.”
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