Military Service Difficult to Translate into Civilian Work Experience

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By Debbie Gregory.

Recruits are led to believe that the world will be theirs on a silver plate upon completion of their enlistments. They are told that they will go to school for free on the GI Bill, get high paying jobs, because everyone is hiring Vets, and that they will live the rest of their lives cruising down easy street due to their service.

The harsh reality is that civilian life is lot harder for Veterans than what they are prepared for. Before they are discharged, Vets attend TAP class, are given a few brochures, and are sent home with knowledge and experience that doesn’t always laterally equate to civilian work experience or translate well on a résumé.

The typical Post-9/11 Veteran is age 35 and younger, an age group that has a higher-than-average unemployment rate. Why is this able-bodied and proven group of men and women having trouble finding employment?

One of the major challenges that Veterans face is that they don’t have résumés that hiring managers understand. What kind of employment does two to five years in a military specific job class qualify you for? It’s not immediately clear how military experience prepares Vets to work in an office or professional setting.

“There’s a lack of understanding of the breadth of occupations and jobs that people hold in the military,” says James Schmeling, managing director and cofounder of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University.

A 25-year-old Iraq war veteran may have significant leadership and technical experience, but may not have a two- or four-year college degree, two or more years of non-military work experience, or references from past employers.

Under most recruiting & job application criteria, “If you don’t have two years of experience in a particular area, you may never get a job interview,” says Rodney Moses, vice president of global recruitment for Hilton Worldwide.

It was apparent how this could be a major setback for Veteran employment applicants, with little or no private-sector experience. This year, Hilton Worldwide has announced its commitment to hiring 10,000 Veterans over the next five years. To accommodate this change, the company has adjusted their online career website to recognize military occupation codes as relevant experience.  Using the re-vamped website, Veteran Employment seekers can use their military job codes to find available positions that fit their skill set. Hilton Worldwide is also working to get the word out that they welcome veterans.

“If you think about the size and scope of some of our hotels, they’re like some of these large ships that are in the Navy,” Moses says.

JPMorgan Chase has also made a commitment to hire 100,000 Veterans by the year 2020. This goal led the company to create a whole new corporate office, the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs. JPMorgan also instituted a training regiment called “Military 101” that teaches their recruiters and managers about the military and teaches Veteran Employees about their company. JPMorgan also hired 15 recruiters whose sole job is to find Veterans to employ.

JPMorgan’s efforts are in support of a project called the 100,000 Jobs Mission, which now involves 113 private-sector companies who are sharing best practices on how to recruit, hire, and retain Veterans. By hiring Veterans, companies not only gain motivated employees; but the companies also receive public accolades for supporting the Vets, and federal tax credits of up to $9,600 for each Veteran that they hire, noted a 2012 McKinsey report.