Since the recession of 2008, there has been mass unemployment across the U.S. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, and many seeking to enter the workforce for the first time have been unable to catch a break. This has had serious affects on both the economy and society, and has dampened many people’s hopes of achieving the American Dream.
Unfortunately, veterans are one of the demographic groups most seriously affected by the economic slump. Many ex-service members who’ve transitioned into the civilian work force, but especially young veterans returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have struggled to find good employment, with a large percentage of vets relying on unemployment benefits or working low paying jobs for which they’re excessively overqualified.
Veterans unemployment rates reached a fever-pitch in 2009, with reports placing it over 11%. The statistics have gradually decreased since, with recent reports stating that veterans unemployment rates have declined to 7.6% in 2012. However, these shrinking statistics have been questioned by some economists, who argue that many veterans have simply given up trying to find work, and as a result weren’t included in the reports.
The truth is that many veterans are still finding it extremely difficult to find good jobs, especially in terms of finding employment roles that they are not over-qualified for, and which will pay them a steady and good income. Read on to discover why veteran unemployment rates are so high and to access a list of resources that can help veterans find good employment.
The bottom line is that many veterans are unemployed due to the recession, and because unemployment rates are bad country-wide for every demographic group. Unemployment has affected almost every U.S. demographic, and veterans just happen to be one subset of the general population that is all having trouble finding work.
Fortunately, the VA offers some far-reaching veterans unemployment benefits that are extremely useful for helping jump start career searches and prevent vets from racking up too much debt while they’re seeking a new job. Click the link in the previous sentence for information on which benefits might be available to you.
One of the main reasons that veterans unemployment rates have risen so extensively in recent years is that military members are often recruited straight out of high school and that during war-time less military members tend to enroll in college degree programs, so once they leave the service, many of these veterans have little or no higher education experience at all.
People with only high school diplomas have been disproportionately negatively affected by the lagging economy, and many veterans fall under this category. Although virtually all veterans have access to some form of education benefits from their military service, be it the Post 9/11 GI Bill, Military Tuition Assistance Programs or some other form of financial aid, many of them have neglected to utilize those benefits in order to help them be better qualified in their search for good jobs.
Another problem facing veterans seeking work is that many employers view veterans as lacking the skills required to make good employees. Although this assumption is unfounded and couldn’t be further from the truth, some employers assume that veterans haven’t gained any marketable or desirable skills during their service.
Some hiring managers even worry that veterans experiences abroad have left them scarred with mental health issues that could prevent them from being good workers. Hiring managers who assume that veterans return from war with emotional and behavioral issues do exist, but need to be reported as this type of believe is discriminatory in nature and extremely illegal. If you feel that you’re being discriminated against during the hiring process, especially if its due to your status as a veteran, please make sure that you visit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website to find out how to file a complaint.
It is important to keep in mind that veterans are simply one of many groups suffering from unemployment and underemployment due to the current state of the economy, and that they are not the only demographic facing this problem. However, society does widely recognize that all veterans are heroes who have made huge sacrifices to protect our country, and that their unemployment represents a great injustice, or even a national disgrace.
As a result of this sentiment, the U.S. Government and many nonprofits have recently made substantial efforts and launched multiple initiatives to help get veterans back into the workforce with excellent employment conditions. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has set up a “Hiring Our Heroes” campaign which has been widely publicized by high profile celebrities, and which has done a great deal of good for the community.
The Hiring Our Heroes campaign has held multiple job fairs across America, hosting employment themed workshops and encouraging companies to hire more veterans, with some excellent results. Although this effort has helped in certain cases, veterans unemployment continues to be a huge issue for veterans across the nation, and more work is definitely still needed to help turn this problem around.
If you are an unemployed veteran, it is definitely a good idea to attend a Hiring Our Heroes event, but here are some other ways you can make yourself more employable:
Network, network, network! You’re part of a huge organization of fellow veterans, some of whom may also be unemployed, but most of whom have stable jobs and some of whom may even run companies of their own. You should be networking a much as possible to try and make contacts in the industry you’d like to work in.
Attend job fairs aimed at veterans, but also elsewhere, regardless of their theme. Order business cards that you can give out at these events and make sure you have a LinkedIn account that you are actively managing and updating with relevant information. If you really want to find a job in these tough times, you’ll have to work extra hard, so try to attend at least 2 networking events a week during your job searching days.
An impressive resume is vital for securing a good job, so make sure you create one that emphasizes your strengths and presents your military history appear as an asset as opposed to a burden. Rather than simply stating your military role and time spent completing it on your resume, list all of the skills you acquired during your time of service and be prepared to explain how these skills are beneficial to the roles that you apply for. Highlight your military past rather than hide it and use it to prove that you have unique skills and attributes that will make a you a valuable employee.
Top companies and other desirable places to work are generally much less likely to hire you if you don’t have a college education. Utilize your Tuition Assistance and Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to advance your education at a discounted rate, which will help prepare you for the job and career field you want.
If you don’t qualify for military education benefits or if school is still simply too expensive for you then considering taking cheaper courses that will still provide you with skills looked for by many employees. Community colleges, community centers and libraries run discounted certification programs and some even provide free classes that teach computer skills and other abilities that you can leverage to help land a new job.
An alternative plan would be to take an entry-level job that you aren’t necessarily interested in, but which provides enough revenue for you to live on and afford either night school courses or an online degree program. Working and studying at the same time provides significant benefits, as you are significantly less likely to build up debt while pursuing your education.
This strategy definitely involves a short-term sacrifice of working uninspiring positions for a couple years, but once you’ve completed your degree it should provide long-term value by making it easier for you to jump into your desired field of work.
This may sound easier said than done, especially if you have family commitments, but there are some areas in the U.S. that have been so negatively effected by the recession that it is virtually impossible to get a good job there. If you live in one of these areas, you may want to consider relocating to an area that has better employment prospects.
Ironically, some cities have flourished despite the recession, and these particular cities should rank high on your list of potential relocation destinations. It may quite a hassle to relocate, both emotionally and financially, but if it helps you end your time of unemployment and enter your desired field, a relocation could be absolutely worth it.
Here is a list of additional resources valuable to unemployed veterans:
Veterans Job Bank is a government run tool that allows veterans to search for relevant job openings. One of the most beneficial aspects of this search tool to veterans is that is translates military skills you have acquired to business and work skills that you can then use to help market yourself.
My Next Move provides veterans with links and information on jobs that may be suitable for them as well as how to become qualified for virtually any job and career field. This site offers invaluable information including salary expectations, job prospects and personality qualities associated with each job. Veterans can thus use this site to get an understanding of where to start in their job search and how to eventually land their dream job.
The Gold Card provides unemployed veterans with various services mainly through One-Stop Career Center’s that are located all across the country. Services include career readiness assessments, career guidance, referrals to job openings and referral to training programs. Overall, this can be a very productive and efficient service for veterans.
H2H or Hero 2 Hired is another government run program that aims to help get more veterans back into the workforce. The site provides postings to exclusive jobs, job seeking advice and opportunities to network. Created by the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, it’s a reliable and comprehensive resource for unemployed veterans.
VetSuccess provides multiple resources for unemployed veterans including a military skill translator, interview tips, job postings and many other services. Providing extensive information and opportunities to find employment, this one is definitely worth checking out.
Veteran unemployment is a national problem unlikely to be cured overnight. However, if you follow the above suggestions and fully utilize the resources available to you then you should be better primed for landing a job in your desired field. Be sure to ask any questions you might have in our comments section below.