Returning service members are entering post-secondary education in record numbers. Some would argue the increase is due to the educational benefits attached to the Post-9/11 GI Bill, while others would maintain the surge is due to current economic conditions and higher than average unemployment rates. Either way, service members and their families look to educational institutions for career direction and employment connections.
While it is not the responsibility of a university’s career center to provide job placement services or make employment or career promises, it is generally understood and expected that networking opportunities and internship possibilities will be offered and promoted. That said, there are steps colleges and universities can take to ensure their career services are both veteran friendly and veteran promoting.
During the ACE Veteran Success Jam, participants noted that transitioning service members and veterans need education in benefits (availability and access), resume writing assistance, interviewing skills, and job search assistance. The Department of Defense/Department of Labor Transition Assistance Program (TAP) is intended to address these issues, but participating veterans cited many concerns with timing, methodology, professionalism of instructors, and access to classes for National Guard members and reservists, which can sometimes prevent the courses from being effective. Therefore, colleges and universities are in a prime position to fill in some of these gaps and provide career counseling and assistance.
Connecting with local resources currently serving veterans and employers in the community will be key to success. Keep in mind that if a student veteran has no civilian work experience under his or her belt, some of the traditional career-search activities will be foreign to them. Resume writing, seeking out mentors, applying for internships, basic interviewing, and knowing how to “work” a job fair should all be viewed through the lens of a veteran, but presented to veterans through the lens of a civilian employer.
Most veterans will need some level of assistance learning how to translate their military experience into language that will be understood by human resource specialists. So become familiar with military-to-civilian translators and know how to use them. Also, since most jobs are still acquired through word of mouth, teaching a veteran how to network can certainly not be underrated.
Jam participants recommended bringing in local employers to help veterans practice how to present themselves and their abilities/skill sets in an interview, offer networking/interviewing workshops, and help veterans connect with the resources in the community to help expose them to mentors and potential internships.
When developing relationships with business and industry, be sure to include statistics on your student veterans, while also promoting the reasons why veterans tend to make exceptional employees. You can also connect with your area’s One-Stop Career Center to ensure Department of Labor local veterans employment representatives (LVERs) and disabled veterans outreach program specialists (DVOPs) know of your work with student veterans. Keep them updated on the numbers of student veterans walking through your doors and graduating from your institution. Request to be on a list for recruitment notifications. Invite them in to provide resume writing, interviewing, and networking workshops on campus. The more informed you are, the more informed student veterans will be and, thus, the more successful they will become when it comes to landing the right job.
Further, finding a TAP near your school, provided to service members by the military as they are separating from active duty, could serve as a conduit for outreach and assistance. Suggestions raised at the Jam encouraged campus staff to volunteer as instructors at these programs and to ask TAP facilitators to assist in providing staff training on campuses. TAP benefits often extend beyond a service member’s last day in the military, so your institution may be in an excellent position to refer student veterans to a local program for assistance.