“There are a lot of companies that say they want veterans, but that conflicts with the unemployment numbers,” said 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 her Masters of Business Administration studies at Boston University.
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 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 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 helped found the 100,000 Jobs Mission, which has a goal of hiring that many service members worldwide by 2020.
Erik Sewell, who is 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 said.
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 said.
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 said, 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 said.
“They have a true desire to be trained and are more committed to success and better at working as a team,” said 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.