After serving in the US Army Reserve and as a Career Counselor with the Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP), I am always honored to work with veterans or those transitioning from military service to the civilian sector. For additional input, I contacted Sherman Swafford, Regional Director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment Veteran’s Program for an update on trends in veteran employment.
According to Mr. Swafford one of the challenges in the workplace that veterans face is the lack of previous experience in the civilian work environment. He recommended that veterans talk with other people in the field that interests them. By taking the time to research the typical job duties, working hours, dress code, and company culture, the veteran will gain an idea of what a potential working environment would be like. Most veterans will relate this to the concept of situational awareness. Any employer who has worked with veterans understands that one of the advantages to hiring people with military experience is their highly advanced soft skills. “They appreciate the value of putting in a hard day’s work. They are very conscious of health, safety, procedures, and the chain of command. They can learn quickly under pressure,” said Mr. Swafford.
Another key advantage to hiring veterans is their exposure to workplace diversity. The military services have programs encouraging and supporting diversity, and with 1.64 million deployments since 2001, most veterans have worked with international tradesmen, specialists, and professionals in overseas locations. Because the military services recruit people from around the country and regularly move their personnel to installations spread across the US and globe, veterans are more likely to work with a more diverse cross-section of our population than are typical employees who stay in single geographic location longer.
Mr. Swafford recommends that veterans learn to better value their military skills, especially those in the combat arms specialties. The intangible skills of leadership and personal integrity are transferrable to any environment. Most transition assistance centers and state employment offices have links to military skills translator tools, such as the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*NET OnLine site. Another tool available to both veterans and employers is the American Job Center. The website has numerous resources for veterans, including links to local workforce development offices in each state.
An emerging trend veterans can look into are states granting recognition for military service. For example, licensing requirements might be modified for those who have served in the medical corps. Because each state has different requirements, veterans should contact their local veterans’ employment service representative for detailed information.
While some news outlets are reporting the veteran jobless rate as higher than the general population, Mr. Swafford points out that many employers are looking to hire veterans. According to the Department of Labor’s America’s Heroes at Work website, many employers seek out this pool of candidates because they are a solid return on investment.