If you’re a veteran looking for work, 2015 could be a good year. The percentage of unemployed veterans has been decreasing steadily for four years, and reached a 7 year low in March of this year. Even among the group of veterans who are most affected by chronic unemployment, the servicemen and women who joined the military post-9/11, the Bureau of Labor Statistic reported that unemployment fell to 7.2% in 2014, down nearly 5 percentage points from the previous year.
But even with all this good news, there are still over a million unemployed veterans looking to enter the workforce. This is a complicated problem; there is no quick and easy fix that will help these willing veterans find stable employment. A key issue is that veterans don’t understand just how valuable their military experience actually is in the private sector. Oftentimes when veterans return to civilian life, they simply don’t have the context for how the skills they gained in the military can work toward helping them develop a solid resume, ace an interview, and ultimately land a stable job. This misunderstanding can lead to missed opportunities for employment, or can keep veterans from gaining their full potential in the job market. Keeping veterans confident that the below skills they’ve acquired in the military are not only applicable, but actually in demand, for private sector jobs is key to helping ease the transition.
Goal-oriented: This skill could not be more valuable. As the average American develops a shorter and shorter attention span, the proven ability to be laser-focused on completing a goal can set a candidate apart immediately. Veterans have developed the ability to focus entirely on a mission or task and see it through to completion. This should be front and center on a resume and made very clear in a job interview.
Responsible: While this may seem like a generic positive trait for the average job-seeker, it takes on a whole new level of importance for a veteran. Most candidates that recruiters or HR representatives screen understand responsibility differently than a veteran does. The non-veteran candidates might have been responsible for a major project or campaign; a veteran has been responsible for others’ lives. This kind of seriousness and understanding of responsibility make veterans a solid, reliable hire for private sector employers.
Hardworking: Again, this could be seen as a generic positive trait or a resume booster for non-veteran job applicants. But put it in perspective: a typical private sector employee might view “hardworking” as willing to put in the extra hours now and again to ensure a timely delivery or a project or report; a veteran understands “hardworking” as working all day, every day for months at a time, rain or shine, good day, bad day, or worst day. While active, veterans had to stand behind their work ethic every single day in front of not only their commanding officers but also their team.
It looks like 2015 could be a good year for unemployed veterans if the trends continue, especially for the post-9/11 vets. But there is still work to be done, especially when it comes to informing veterans of the opportunities in the job market and just how prepared for those opportunities they actually are. We need to continue to encourage unemployed veterans, and even employed veterans who have settled for a low-paying job, to keep applying and keep interviewing. There’s a market out there for them to take, we only need to educate them on how ready they are to take it.