Veterans Reentering the Workforce

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Perhaps you’ve served years stateside or have done multiple tours of overseas duty. Maybe you’ve helped coordinate missions or have protected civilians. 

No matter what your role in the armed forces or where you were stationed, you’ve served your country valiantly for many years. And certainly, you developed strong bonds with your comrades to get the job done and return home safely. But now, with an honorable discharge next to your name, it’s time to hang up your uniform and return to civilian life.

Unfortunately, many veterans find the transition to the civilian workforce difficult. In fact, according to industrial organizational psychologist Fred Mael, for many of the 200,000 veterans who reenter the workforce every year, it can be a huge culture shock

Mael’s research reveals that while the military highly values teamwork, duty, leadership ability and reliability, many veterans don’t encounter the same level of these attributes in civilian jobs. Instead, they often find themselves in environments where people focus on their own advancement over that of the team. 

In addition, after having lived on military bases 24/7 and sharing much more than just work time with their peers, veterans often have a hard time balancing their work and private lives. All of these factors can add up to what seems an insurmountable challenge, especially for those who entered the military directly after high school.

If you find yourself dealing with similar issues, it’s time to become aware of the value you bring to potential employers and how you can put your skills to work for your career, as well as for the community as a whole.

Besides the skillset you’ve developed as part of your position in the military, be it computer programming or flying a plane, you’ve learned other attributes, too: perseverance, teamwork and the ability to perform under pressure. 

It’s important to know that there are many veteran friendly employers who recognize those qualities. 

But it’s just as important to understand that your new colleagues might not possess all of those qualities, so you need to find a way to function in your new company’s culture. Mael recommends that if you find yourself craving more fulfillment and engagement in your work, to find a volunteer organization where your energy can contribute to a common cause.

You should also be aware that there are a variety of excellent resources for veterans reentering the workforce. 

What follows is a selection of some of the best organizations and websites:

  • Some staffing agencies, like Kelly, are dedicated to helping veterans find employment. In fact, they’re committed to identifying opportunities that can help veterans at every stage of their civilian careers.  Kelly, for example, works with numerous companies across the globe, including almost all Fortune 500 companies, to find jobs for veterans. Simply make an appointment with a local recruiter to discuss your situation and start looking for employment.
  • The website offers a wealth of information about veteran employment, including resumé writing, career mapping and calculating your salary.
  • Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS). VETS is a Department of Labor resource for veterans and separating military service members, and offers current information about employment services, expertise and employment rights.
  • Feds Hire Vets. Feds Hire Vets is a government website that contains accurate and up to date information about federal institutions that offer preferential treatment to qualifying veterans.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service. The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service assists sick and disabled veterans so they can live as independently as possible. Services include evaluation, rehabilitation, counseling and a variety of training opportunities.

Of course, there are also regional resources that can offer local knowledge and support. And remember: with your proven qualities of perseverance, courage and teamwork, you already have an edge in the job market!

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