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I’m writing this in the middle of a media whirlwind surrounding the latest presidential election. Regardless of the outcome, there is a great deal of uncertainty facing the business community and the country as a whole as we move into the next few years. We’re all hopeful for positive changes, and find ourselves bracing for new challenges.

We’re also extremely aware that much of the regulatory roller coaster is out of our direct, individual control.

I want to redirect your valuable time and attention to an issue where you do have the power and the platform to make a positive impact for your country.

Veteran unemployment has seen some positive changes in the past two years. However, an average of 1 in 3 employed veterans report they are currently underemployed or in a low-paying job.

That doesn’t seem like much of a victory, does it? Rosemary Haefner, Chief Human Resource Officer at CareerBuilder had this to say about the alarming statistic:

“…Employers may still not understand the skills veterans had in the military, which may land [veterans] in positions that don’t use all their skills and do not get them the higher salary levels that they deserve.”

Veterans have served in the same career field for several years. They’ve worked their way up the ladder, just like one would in a civilian job. They’ve progressed through their career into different positions, they’ve held management roles, and they’ve learned new skills year after year. They’ve received substantial training on personnel management, operations and logistics, new technology, and much more.

However, translating those military skills into a civilian environment is challenging, and many veterans leave the military without much training on how to use what they know in this new environment.

In any other career field, by the time they leave the service, many military veterans would be at an equivalent to a mid-level management tier in the civilian sector. But they reach that market and there is a sudden disconnect. They struggle to translate their military service into a resume that matches the average civilian employer hiring ‘checklist’. They leave the military and find themselves forced to find ‘a job – any job’ to provide for their families.

They are trying to figure out where they fit in a world outside of that uniform. It’s a scary prospect when their ‘job’ for the last four, five, or twenty years has been their family. Civilian jobs are a whole different ball game.

Military spouses face similar issues. In fact, military spouse unemployment has reached a whopping 26% – that’s more than 3 times the national average. In addition, the average military spouse makes 38% less than their civilian counterparts. Much of this can be blamed on frequent moves, licensing requirements, deployments, and a lack of opportunities.

The average military spouse resume doesn’t look the same as those who aren’t military affiliated. They have gaps in their employment. They have short tenures at multiple jobs. They’re statistically overeducated and overqualified for most of the positions they apply for.

I’m asking you to take a second look.

Don’t discredit the volunteer hours, or the two to three college degrees they obtained instead of working a ‘normal’ job – because they couldn’t find work that justified the cost of childcare. They had the opportunity to stand idly by due to personal circumstances, and they chose to do something to further themselves. They take entry-level jobs at each duty station just to keep their foot in the door of their desired career field. Every move is like hitting the reset button on their career.

With a mountain of reasons why they couldn’t accomplish their goals, they found a way to beat the odds. Imagine what they could do to help you reach your business objectives.

This Veteran’s Day, don’t rest on platitudes and social media posts.

If you want to honor a veteran, give them the opportunity to show you how much of an invaluable asset they can be to your organization. Give that military spouse an opportunity to show you why his or her possibly short tenure with your company may be one of the greatest investments you’ve ever made.

Regardless of what happens in Washington D.C., I believe in you. I believe that you – Main Street Business Owner – are the cornerstone of our country’s growth and the key to our sustainability.

I’m asking you to invest in our military families.

I charge you to take direct measures to seek out and recruit veteran and military spouse professionals for your business. I also encourage you to connect with organizations designed to help your business and your prospective veteran hires achieve success.

Need somewhere to start? I’d like to introduce you to a few fantastic organizations:

Hire Heroes USA

In Gear Career for Military Spouses

Hiring Our Heroes

MadSkills

I also welcome the opportunity to work with you directly and help to connect you with great resources about becoming a military family friendly employer.

This Veterans Day, let’s take action for our country. Let’s commit to creating opportunities in our businesses for our troops and their families. Hire them, mentor them, and pay them fairly. The investment in this demographic will reap long-term benefits for your business and our communities.

Respectfully,

Erika Heeren

President

Heeren Content & Strategy

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