Military Wire: 2015 – Underemployment the new employment for many veterans

Michael Schindler
Michael Schindler

Hope and Change is more than a campaign slogan for many service members and their families as they prepare to transition from active duty to civilian life in 2015.

As the Army continues to reduce its troop strength (otherwise known as downsize), transitioning service members and their families are holding on to the prospect of getting a viable job in light of the declining veteran unemployment rate.

Active duty service members are more confident their skills will translate to civilian jobs (81 percent, nearly twice more than in 2013).

But their confidence may be anchored in false hope.

A new University of Phoenix national military survey suggests that despite the declining veteran unemployment rate, many vets may actually be underemployed. It found that 61 percent of past service members who have held civilian jobs say they have previously been or currently are in jobs beneath their skill sets, many (72 percent) because they were unemployed and needed a job.

I recently spoke to U.S. Army Colonel (ret.) and University of Phoenix Military Division Associate Regional Vice President Garland Williams, who himself made a successful transition from a 28-year military career to civilian employment five years ago. My goal was to reveal some tactical and practical steps Veterans can make in 2015 to give meaning to hope and improve the chances of landing a job that pays the bills.

What he and the study revealed was enlightening.

First off, only one-third (34 percent) of veterans made a transition plan for returning to civilian life after separation from the military (just 1 percentage up from last year). Not good. The first fix:

  • Make an action plan.
    • It isn’t enough to just hope your skills will translate to any job. Identify the industries you want to work based on your skillset, then identify the companies.
    • Once you identify the companies, look for a fellow Veteran that is employed in the company and make a connection — the best tool for this is LinkedIn.
    • If you are able to make a connection, ask for guidance on how best to position your skills with HR. Granted, the HR process may be a “rats nest” but with an inside connection, you stand a better chance.
    • Finally, plan your follow-up. Don’t just send your resume and let “fate” do the rest. Determine dates you will follow-up on what you send — until you are hired, your job is getting a job. Follow-up shows your commitment and tenacity.

Colonel Williams also shared that, according to the study, less than one-third (29 percent) of veterans say they are using their military skills in the civilian workplace. Not super shocking since many are underemployed.

Bottom line: The job market is competitive and if you don’t plan your mission targets, you stand a strong chance of under-utilizing those skills you acquired while in service. Plan your mission!

—By Michael Schindler

Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

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