After combat, a battle for job-hunting veterans

A brochure by Disney Corporation is placed on a table during a jobs fair for veterans called 'Serving Those Who Have Served' on the campus of University of Southern California on March 20, 2013 in Los Angeles, Calif.

The Labor Department is expected to release its annual report on the job situation for veterans soon. The jobless rate for those who served after 9/11 has tended to be higher than the overall unemployment rate.

Though typically highly skilled, disciplined and hard-working, veterans of recent conflicts often have more difficulty than civilians in finding work. Companies love to hang yellow ribbons and run ads about supporting America’s veterans. But veterans say they aren’t always as quick to hire them because civilian managers don’t understand how to evaluate military experience.

“The hardest part for me when I first got out of the military was figuring out what to write on a resume,” says Marine veteran Michael Wersan, who served in Iraq as an infantry assaultman. “Nobody cares that I did 700 patrols in seven months. That doesn’t compute for a civilian.”

But he translated his skills into a civilian resume and picked up new ones studying at the City University of New York. He’s now a construction supervisor.

Former Marine Tireak Tulloch did two tours in Iraq and had advanced training in network engineering. His skills are in demand, but at first, he says he couldn’t get past initial phone interviews. A reservist when he was job searching, he felt managers wouldn’t hire him because they feared he’d be sent back to Iraq. But he kept at it and his civilian career in technology has since taken off.

Those who speak for veterans say there's a great deal of mistunderstanding amongst employers. 

“I think there are a lot of misconceptions that every veteran is a ticking time bomb,” says Derek Bennett, an Army veteran, who is chief of staff of the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a reality after combat. But veterans groups say employers need to understand that PTSD is managable. Overall, they want employers to look beyond stereotypes and do more to reach out to veteran communities, where they may find men and women with the skills they’re looking for.

Mark Garrison: Companies love to run ads about supporting the troops. But former Army officer Derek Bennett, of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, says that doesn’t always mean hiring them.

Derek Bennett: Finding employment can be difficult. Translating what you’ve done in the military into something that is recognizable by an employer can be difficult as well.

Marine veteran Michael Wersan says combat experience is hard to explain on a resume.

Michael Wersan: Nobody cares that I did 700 patrols in seven months. That doesn’t compute for a civilian.

He’s now a construction supervisor. Iraq Veteran Tireak Tulloch found job hunting frustrating at first.

Tireak Tulloch: I really couldn’t get past the phone interview.

But he kept at it and now works in network engineering. Apart from misunderstanding military skills, Derek Bennett says some employers misunderstand vets.

Bennett: I think there are a lot of misconceptions that every veteran is a ticking time bomb.

Not all veterans have PTSD. And it’s manageable. Vets want employers to look beyond stereotypes and do more to find the veterans who might have the skills they’re looking for. I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

About the author

Mark Garrison is a reporter and substitute host for Marketplace, based in New York.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...