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SALT LAKE CITY — With the unemployment rate for veterans still significantly higher than the national average, a simple lesson in military vocabulary might help drive down that number and help our nation's heroes gain valuable employment.
Traditional employees gather the job skills needed to advance their careers and prepare them for new opportunities through education and experience. Others gain these valuable skills from military service. Annually, 270,000 veterans return home to open arms and the civilian life. Facing these hardworking, highly skilled men and women when they return is an unexpected obstacle: finding a job.
With the unemployment rate in Utah at a five-year low of 3.9 percent and the national jobless rate at 6.6 percent, the national rate for post-9/11 veterans remains significantly higher, at 9 percent, according to the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee. While some companies proactively hire service members, many veterans are still finding the transition into the civilian labor force difficult.
A simple way to honor their sacrifice is to make the transition a little easier by supplying them with valuable career opportunities. If you’re an employer and looking for a way both to honor troops and please customers, hiring a vet should be a no-brainer. On the whole, veterans are motivated, trustworthy and reliable.
So why is their unemployment rate so high? At the staffing agency where I work, we find one problem is that many hiring managers don’t understand the vocabulary used on a veteran’s resume. Many military positions are responsible for complex tasks, but on a résumé they may seem simple. Once employers begin to understand how military skills translate into civilian-speak, it becomes clear just how valuable these workers are.
In the hiring world, “soft” skills, or personal attributes, are vital to a successful business. They separate a great employee from a poor employee. Many people may not have heard the following traits described as “soft” skills, but they will easily recognize these qualities in productive workers. These include:
• The ability to work under pressure
• Commitment and dependability
• Effective communication and goal setting
• Problem solving
• Creativity and collaboration
Specific, teachable abilities are called “hard” skills. For example, a veteran who repaired vehicles in the field may have machining, welding and supply-chain management skills. Skills such as negotiation, people and project management, logistics and the ability to do security assessments may not be listed on service members' resumes, but they are highly desirable in the workforce.
My staffing agency recently had the opportunity to place veteran David King in a job. With 14 years of experience and service under his belt, the retired Air Force specialist has been able to transition seamlessly into his new position. Once assigned to train combat personnel how to survive in enemy territory, he now applies those same principles to train workers to excel on the production line. My agency says its experience with King has been excellent and sets a high standard for new and existing employees.
Veterans struggling to find employment must remember the skill sets they developed while serving are highly valuable and desired by many employers. Numerous programs, nationally and locally, help veterans obtain employment. The Transition Assistance Program, for example, provides workshops designed to educate veterans on various aspects of the employment process, from job hunting to nailing an interview.
The difference between getting a job or not may be as simple as misunderstood vocabulary. Veterans, not just employers, should keep this in mind as they present their resumes and interview for positions: explain clearly what terms mean and how they translate into the civilian job market.
It is impossible to thank our military men and women enough for their service. But employers can offer a modest act of patriotism by recruiting, hiring and training veterans. With their sacrifices they give all a land of freedom — when they return, let’s make sure we provide them a land of opportunity.
Ashlee Hamblin is a freelance writer and the operations and marketing manager for one of the top staffing agencies along the Wasatch Front. Email: email@example.com