Helping veterans find work in a tight job market


SANDY, UT - NOVEMBER 4: Margarita Angelo (R) of Zions Bank talks to Veteran Robert Ryan (L) who is looking for a job at the "Hiring Our Heroes" job fair November 4, 2011 at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy, Utah. The job fair which had over 100 employers, was for veterans and current active duty military looking for jobs and was sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Monster’s Military.com is the official online partner of the program. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images) (George Frey/GETTY IMAGES)

Military veterans face a major communications gap when looking for jobs in the civilian world. That’s what a survey from Monster.com, one of the world’s leading job sites, found when it took a deeper look at how veterans fare in the job market once they leave military service.

On Wednesday, Monster released the Veterans Talent Index, a report based on surveys of veterans looking for work and of the employers who are seeking to hire them. This is the second index the company has done; Monster plans to revisit the project every six months or so.

“We created the VTI to shine a light on the problems that vets are having in finding jobs,” said Steve Cooker, Monster’s executive vice president and head of global government solutions.

Veterans’ confidence in being able to find a job is dropping, the study found, as they face a tough job market. The unemployment rate is particularly high for 18- to 24-year-old veterans, said Jeff Quinn, Monster Worldwide’s vice president of global insights. They are finding it tough to compete for scarce jobs against peers who have not served in the military but instead have a few years of additional education or work experience under their belts. Cooker said the problem will only get larger as government budget cuts prompt more people look for jobs outside of the military.

But those moving into civilian life also find it difficult to talk convincingly about how their military skills can translate to other fields of work.


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T.L. “T” McCreary, president of the Monster-affiliated Military.com and a retired rear admiral, said that it’s often difficult for a veteran to get out of the military mindset.

“A transitioning person is a person who speaks and lives the military culture and language — many come right out of high school. Making that communications translation is foreign to them; it’s almost like speaking a foreign language,” McCreary said.

Some veterans focus too heavily on what their primary responsibilities were in the military and don’t think about other aspects to their jobs, such as logistics planning or financial work. McCreary said most people who have had an infantry job, for example, have a secondary or tertiary skill set that would be attractive to a prospective employer but most likely would not get brought up by the veteran in a job interview.

In other cases, it’s simply a matter of framing. Veterans often automatically fall into speaking about what a group has done rather than what they as individuals have accomplished.

“We see it all the time,” McCreary said. “For four years or more, veterans have talked from the position of a team, and very seldom used the terminology ‘I.’ But then recruiters get confused. They think veterans are not talking about themselves, and may be trying to hide behind the proverbial ‘we.’ ”

It’s not all bad news. Some companies are specifically seeking out veterans, particularly for jobs that require security clearance, according to the survey. Employers also are looking for former members of the military to fill technical positions such as computer systems analysts or financial analysts, according to searches done on Military.com.

And once employers do hire a veteran, Quinn said, the survey found that 99 percent of employers say their work is equal to or better than that of employees who have not served. The same percentage of employers say they would hire other veterans in the future.

Cooker said the findings suggest that employers should make an extra effort to draw out veterans in interviews, in order to get a fuller picture of the skills and talents they offer. Using more specific language in job descriptions, McCreary said, would help veterans understand how their own skills might work in other offices.

A lot of the burden, however, falls to veterans.

“A veteran should take advantage of all tools available,” Cooker said, citing the Department of Veterans Affairs’ VA for Vets program and “skills translators” as two such resources. “They should also be laser-focused on the jobs that they are pursuing and understanding what it means to meet that job description and to accent all the extra skills that they’ve taken on through their military careers.”

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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