Challenges and opportunities for veterans in the workforce

State of the veteran worker

This crucial step in post-military life comes with unique obstacles.

Each year, more than 200,000 military members transition into civilian life, and this major milestone comes with one universal hurdle: finding a job.

Many former military members have never created a resume, might have limited interviewing experience and aren’t used to promoting themselves to future potential employers. Plus, there is not always an obvious corporate counterpart to the title or duties of someone in the military.

While veterans are about 10 percent of the population, these hard workers offer unique backgrounds – and face unique challenges.

What is employment like for veterans?

This data is based on a pre-pandemic 2019 environment. Earlier in 2020, unemployment for veterans had tripled to about 9 percent, or 800,000 veterans out of work.

  • Jobless rate was 3.1 percent in 2019. This rate varies for men and women – 3 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively.
  • More than half of the 284,000 unemployed veterans were 25-54 years old, and 39 percent were 55 years old and above.
  • The most common industries are healthcare, government, defense contracting and IT/technology.

What challenges do veterans face when it comes to employment?

The top three include access to mental health resources, translating military experiences to civilian life and finding a job.

And “the top reasons veterans report for departing their first jobs include lack of career development/advancement, work that lacks meaning, limited professional development opportunities, or unfamiliar work culture”, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Veterans are also more likely to wind up in lower-skill jobs without a clear career path, due to a lack of training and professional development offered by employers. Companies should prioritize offering this and veterans should be on the lookout for it during the job hunt (and make sure to ask about opportunities).

What resources are available to help veterans find the right job?

For veterans on the job hunt:

  • Use your military occupation specialty code to find jobs that align with your skills and experience.
  • Never created a resume before? Has it been a long time? Our AI resume builder will create a document in minutes, which you can save to your account and use to quickly apply to roles.

For hiring managers:

  • 4 ways to recruit and hire veterans
  • Adapt your hiring strategy to include a larger focus on skills.
  • Simplify your application process and make it easy for someone to connect with the description – then apply.
  • Let technology do the hard work for you, from building a candidate pipeline to sourcing for skills.
  • Utilize or partner with external groups for resources, such as this toolkit to hire veterans, created by the Department of Veterans Affairs.