Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are consistently plagued by higher unemployment rates than the civilian community. Ted Daywalt, a retired Navy Captain (O-6), and chief executive officer of VetJobs.com, explains why the dichotomy exists.
"Many human resource managers and hiring managers have no idea what a military person brings to the job," he e-mailed me. He says that recruiters do not understand the skills perfected in the armed forces because military service has declined from one in ten Americans in 1970 to one in 270 today. He blames the end of the draft.
"Too many employers think all the OEF/OIF veterans have PTSD," he wrote, referring to post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from participation in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"This is definitely wrong," Daywalt says. "In fact, some employers think PTSD is contagious, which is also false." Equally as erroneous, veterans are sometimes "being perceived as John Wayne movie, Sad Sack and Beetle Bailey stereotypes." He cites other common misperceptions that veterans are "not team players, lack of up-to-date technical experience, do not have good work habits and lack of civilian certifications."
VetJobs advocates for veterans, announces which companies are hiring people with military experience and skills, and lists job fairs in its newsletters.
Some job fairs are exclusively for veterans. MilitaryStars.com, for example, hosts job fairs for veterans nationwide and permits you to post your résumé on its site. You can also download its pamphlet, "The Top 10 Secrets America's Best Companies Don't Want You to Know about Hiring Former Military Professionals."
At job fairs, be prepared with a one or two-sentence pitch because of the limited time allotted for each employment seeker. Additionally, bring a copy of your most recent performance review, assuming that it is positive.
Employment recruiter Mark Lyden writes in his book, "VETERANS: DO THIS! GET HIRED!" that a positive performance review separates you from the broad-brush sameness mentality recruiters paint veterans with. That is because they envision the boot camp image where, "everybody has the same haircut, same uniforms, sleeps in the same rooms and eats the same meals." He says that your performance review helps you stand out in the crowd.
Meanwhile, militaryconnection.com also lists job fairs nationally, provides the ability for you to upload your résumé and find job openings targeted to veterans. Click on the "Virtual Job Fair" button and match your experience and skills with job offerings by category.
If I were in the military police, for example, I might pick the "Law enforcement" category as my civilian choice. That option yielded 32 employers with job openings. The "construction" choice had four job openings and "manufacturing/production" listed seven companies looking for employees.
"The United States military is the world's largest technical training school with over 220 occupational specialties," says VetJobs' Daywalt. "If you seek candidates with diversity, leadership skills, technical skills, security clearances and who have verifiable work backgrounds," he tells recruiters, "you will find them in a military veteran."
He adds, "VetJobs is an excellent source for candidates in information technology, program and project management, sales, linguists, logistics, transportation, human resources, insurance, construction, manufacturing, engineering, finance, healthcare, accounting and senior executives."
Jerry Chautin is a volunteer SCORE business counselor, business columnist and SBA's 2006 national "Journalist of the Year" award winner. He is a former entrepreneur, commercial mortgage banker, commercial real estate dealmaker and business lender. You can follow him at www.Twitter.com/JerryChautin