In honor of last week’s observance of Veterans Day, I thought I would dedicate a little space to issues surrounding putting veterans to work.  Sadly, unemployment of returning military personnel is too high, hovering around an average of 8%.  Certainly there are a variety of factors contributing to this high number, not the least of which is the generally high unemployment rate in our country right now.  But there are some signs of hope that those returning from their military service will face (slightly?) better employment opportunities.
It’s a sad fact that many employers resist hiring veterans.  Some business owners fear that returning service people will not fit in to their corporate culture, that they are requiring too much structure, that they’ll bring the emotional baggage of their service to the job, and a bunch more poor excuses.
And the excuses for not hiring veterans are all poor.  The fact is that veterans make some of the best employees across the board.  Military training has taught them the importance of following rules and instructions, working within a designated structure, taking orders, thinking on their feet, and how to handle emergencies without panicking.  Service personnel also understand the hierarchy of command and reporting to superiors, working with limited resources, and taking ownership and responsibility of their actions.  These are all laudable work traits, regardless of the type of work or location.
Obviously, not all veterans are immediately ready for employment upon their return to civilian life.  In fact, for many returning from service this is a tough transition.  Many vets do not see civilian employment as having the structure they have become used to, and see “regular” employment as too unstructured for their comfort levels.  While this is somewhat true, it isn’t always the case. Many employment opportunities have formalities and disciplines similar to those in the military.  Not just limited to jobs as first responders for police, fire and emergency services, lots of other jobs require great discipline and maintain hierarchal operations.  Highly regulated environments such as banking, health services, insurance and other professions present numerous job opportunities where former service personnel can thrive.
Unfortunately, some service personnel can not immediately return to the civilian workforce upon their return from active duty.  Those who return with severe physical injuries have a long road in front of them for healing and rehabilitation.  But a larger percentage of returning service personnel experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and overcoming its affects, even without physical injuries, face uncertain recovery times because the affects aren’t as clear as the physical ones.
Compounding the situation, the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) is overwhelmed from the high volume of vets they try to serve, and they are unable to provide the level of ongoing treatment needed by those with physical injuries and PTSD.  Yet, the VA is typically the first place returning vets should seek services, but it is by no means the only resource available to those coming out of military service.
There are countless programs that specialize in helping veterans return to the civilian work force. Some are nationally known like Swords To Plowshares, but many employment development departments (unemployment offices) around the country are making it a priority to assist service personnel in finding meaningful work. And although many employers are making efforts to find positions for returning service women and men, more business owners need to step up their hiring of veterans.
And another bright spot for returning vets are the opportunities being created and supported in the franchise world.  Many of the nation’s top franchises have instituted programs to help returning military personnel establish businesses of their own through dramatically reduced franchise fees, specialty loan programs and other options.  Franchisors recognize that those with military backgrounds have strong leadership and team building skills, and are able to follow the regimented protocols of franchise ownership, making franchises a good fit for those vets who want to own their own businesses.  Entrepreneur Magazine publishes a lot of useful information for veterans seeking to start their own businesses, franchises or not.  Go to:  http://www.entrepreneurmag.com and enter “veterans” into the search box for a list of relevant articles and resources.
And of course the VA publishes a long list of veteran support agencies that can be found at: http://www.va.gov/vso/VSO-Directory_2012-2013.pdf
To those who serve and who have served our country – thank you for your service!  Every day should be Veterans Day!  Our service personnel should be honored, respected, appreciated and supported every day, and any employment opportunity created to help these dedicated men and women return to productive civilian lives and build livelihoods is a blessing.  Putting our veterans to work must be a priority!
For more information on  job search and career development, veteran or not, please search this blog and visit:  hanklondon.com

By Hank

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