WHEN RYAN GUINA LEFT the U.S. Air Force in 2006, he'd spent 6.5 years in active service and had extensive experience as an aircraft mechanic. However, that didn't mean he could immediately get a job as a mechanic after his discharge.
"My military training did not give me the certifications (for a civilian job)," he explains. What's more, Guina was ready for a change and wanted to move into a new line of work. He was unemployed for six months before finding a job as a consultant analyzing supply chain logistics for a contractor. Today, he is part of the Air National Guard and runs The Military Wallet, a website he founded to provide personal finance and consumer savings information for military members, veterans and their families.
Each year, approximately 200,000 service members transition to civilian life, according to a 2018 report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Some, like Guina, may find their job won't transfer to the private sector without additional training or certification. Others may discover there simply is no civilian equivalent to their military occupation.
- Unemployment benefits.
- Government career services.
- American Corporate Partners.
- Veterans Upward Bound.
- Warrior Scholar Project.
- Veteran career workshops and job fairs.
- Networking services.
- Local veteran groups.
Veterans who were on active duty and honorably discharged may receive unemployment compensation for ex-servicemembers. They may also be eligible for state unemployment benefits. While each state administers its own program, veterans may be able to receive this compensation while going to school for a degree or additional training. The U.S. Department of Labor sponsors American Job Centers nationwide to help workers find career services nearby. Veterans employment representatives in these offices should be able to assist with understanding eligibility requirements and state rules.
Government Career Services
The U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs both offer career services to veterans. "There are workforce teams out there to help," says Regan Jones, director of the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs at the University of Notre Dame.
Jones spent 12 years as an infantry officer in the Marine Corps and completed two combat deployments. Based on his personal experience receiving assistance, he encourages veterans not to overlook government programs. "(They've) got a lot of great people doing great and even transformative work," he explains.
Other government career resources can be found online. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management maintains a FedsHireVets website, which provides information on federal employment for veterans. Meanwhile, the "My Next Move for Veterans" program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and provides career exploration information, and states may have their own programs and websites as well.
"It's a bit like a treasure hunt in some ways," Guina says. However, to make it easier to find needed services, the government-sponsored Veterans.gov acts as a clearinghouse to connect veterans to relevant websites.
American Corporate Partners
There are also a number of non-government resources for unemployed veterans. American Corporate Partners is one of them. The organization provides free yearlong mentorships that are intended to help service members achieve civilian career goals. Veterans must apply for the program; once admitted, each veteran is matched to a mentor who aligns with his or her career interests and professional history.
"The program allows employee mentors to share their career development knowledge and working expertise of corporate America with veterans," explains Jim O'Neill, senior manager for strategic talent outreach at Raytheon, a technology and innovation company that participates with American Corporate Partners.
Veterans Upward Bound
The Veterans Upward Bound program is available at select colleges and universities across the country. Free to qualified veterans, the program helps demystify military education benefits, offers refresher courses and tutoring and provides career counseling, among other services.
While the program is housed at colleges, veterans don't need to be enrolled at those institutions to take advantage of Veterans Upward Bound services. "Most of the veterans we serve don't end up going to RIT," says Rachel Mathews, director of the Veterans Upward Bound program at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Part of the program's goal is to help veterans understand all their education and training options. Mathews says, "Going into a four-year bachelor degree program isn't always the right fit for a veteran."
The University of Notre Dame is one of more than a dozen prestigious universities that participates in the Warrior-Scholar Project. The free program offers a one- to two-week academic boot camp to veterans who are transitioning from the military to higher education.
"We want to be beacons of hope for those who have served or are serving," Jones says. Veterans selected to participate are mentored by successful student veterans and attend lectures, workshops and tutoring classes to help them prepare for college success. Yale University, Harvard University and Texas A&M are a few of the other host institutions.
Veteran Career Workshops and Job Fairs
Some companies offer their own support services for veterans. "Raytheon sponsors workshops across the country for veterans focused on resume building, mock interviewing, networking tips and assistance with job search tools, including LinkedIn," O'Neill says. In 2019 alone, the company has been involved in approximately 200 military recruiting events.
Websites such as RecruitMilitary.com and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's HiringOurHeroes.org let service members and veterans search for career events in their area. They may also have digital services, such as resume builders, that can be useful for job seekers.
Networking online through sites like LinkedIn or in-person at career fairs can help veterans make connections that lead to jobs. However, informal networking channels can be just as important, particularly for helping veterans adjust to civilian life. These may include local sports teams, veteran groups such as the American Legion or community nonprofit organizations.
"The post-military transition can be difficult on an emotional level," Guina says. Service members who have spent years in a highly structured environment working as part of a team may struggle to adapt to the less-defined roles they have as a civilian. Participating in volunteer or social activities can provide unemployed veterans with an outlet to do something meaningful while also making connections that could help with their job search.
Once hired, some companies offer employee groups to support their veteran workers. At Raytheon, that group is the Raytheon Employee Veterans Network. It provides veteran employees the chance to collaborate, participate in mentorship programs and support other service members, O'Neill says.
Local Veteran Groups
In addition to national programs, veterans are served by a patchwork of local organizations. For instance, Vets' Community Connections provides services in San Diego, Phoenix and South Bend, Indiana. Meanwhile, the Veterans Outreach Center offers free services to veterans in the Rochester, New York area.
"Every state and every community is different," says David Oliver, outreach specialist with the Veterans Upward Bound program at RIT and a 34-year veteran of the U.S. Army and New York Army National Guard. To find resources in your area, search the internet for the local veterans groups, or if your community has a 2-1-1 information line, call that number to be connected to appropriate service organizations.
While these resources can all help veterans find a job, it won't always be a quick or smooth process. "It's going to be a journey," Jones says. "Approach it with humility and patience."
This article first appeared in U.S. New & World Report on November 1, 2019.