Weatherford Democrat

May 19, 2013

VETERANS’ CORNER: Leveling the employment field


Weatherford Democrat

— By JIM VINES

An unfair fight for job-seeking veterans has become increasingly evident on the jobs front.

Unemployment among the youngest generation has remained stubbornly above national averages for the last five years. Employers say they want to hire veterans, but rely more and more on computer systems that routinely filter out military job titles and skills in favor of familiar phases.

It’s a language barrier between troops who have worn their resumés on their sleeves and a civilian hiring system that doesn’t know a captain from a colonel.

Researchers from the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University say it’s not just a reintegration headache for veterans and their families. In a recent strategy paper, they argued those types of problems represent the first cracks in the nation’s fragile promise to honor the sacrifices of the newest generation of service members.

Veterans without jobs are more likely to succumb to depression, struggle with substance abuse, ignore post-traumatic stress disorder and end up living on the streets. Veterans who find civilian sector jobs are more likely to speak proudly of their military service and encourage their children to sign up. A lot of the problems exist from resumé writing and not transferring the right verbiage on an application to create a desire by the employer to interview.

The military does not have resumé writing tips in its transitions assistance programs, which veterans groups grumble about, saying the advice is too broad based and basic to really help in civilian job searches. One of the biggest problems seen with potential employees looking for jobs is skipping over employment buzzwords in the resumés such as the word “command,” as opposed to “manage” or “supervise.”

If applying for a project manager’s job and using the military job description, there is a large disadvantage. Recruiters don’t have time to review every resumé that comes across their desk. They need to see clear and concise language that shows the comparison in civilian terms.

Over the last three years, an entire mini-industry has emerged around those military skills translators, with Fortune 500 companies and veterans groups offering their own takes on the theme. The military services each have their own, as do the Department of Labor and Veterans Affairs.

In March, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce took the idea a step further with their own Personal Branding Resume Engine, which allows veterans to input their military accomplishments and get an interview-ready resumé, business cards and personalized pitches for the job interview.

A lot of skills translators try to fit a square peg in to a round hole. Veterans having served in combat only get to look at security jobs. Pigeon-holing veterans based on their military jobs needs to cease and employers need to concentrate on looking at the whole of the veteran’s service.

The effort is half resumé builder and half business lesson. The idea is to get the veteran to think about a job application the same way their civilian competition does.

More young veterans are in the workforce than ever before. The nationwide push to hire veterans spurred by advocacy groups and lawmakers in recent years has helped make a difference. More needs to be done at the employer level.

Veterans bring reliability, flexibility, dedication and a host of intangibles. Once a veteran makes it to the interview, those traits shine through. Using skills translations and keyword placements will go a long way to ensure the veteran gets a chance to be heard.

It’s up to the veteran to be prepared to get the foot in the door. For additional information go to www.resumewritingforveterans.com.

Speak to you again next week.

Jim Vines is commander of AmVets Post 133.