Friday, June 05, 2009

What Employers Think of Hiring Vets

by Erica Yeager, Director of Community Initiatives, Veterans of Foreign Wars - Veteran Solutions, Incorporated

It’s getting to the point where I don’t want to read the newspaper any more. Reports of the job market are written in dire language and seem tailored to scare the widest possible audience. It is increasingly clear that old ways of networking, doing business, and finding positions aren’t making the grade. Most open positions have a line of potential interested candidates at least four or five persons deep – often much deeper. The savvy candidate has to market him- or herself in the most efficient and accessible way possible, to get the positive notice of potential employers.

But what of candidates who have years of experience in the work world that don’t obviously translate to their current work interests or abilities? It’s hard to be savvy and efficient when finding common ground isn’t a given. As hard as it is for the average person on the street to make a job switch in this economy, imagine for a minute that you have spent the last three years, or five, or fifteen working a job that has its own specialized language, job titles, position grades, and skill sets. Now you are leaving that system and trying to be employable in the regular job market. And you’re competing with folks who have been navigating this market their entire working lives.

Worse, you may be coming onto the job market with a visible physical impairment which can make people uncomfortable. Your former employment also carries meaning with some people – for some this meaning is positive, for some perhaps not – and you worry this also might skew your chances.

For a member of the United States Armed Forces who is “separating” from the service, the civilian job market (private or government sector) can be challenging. Some are “separating,” or leaving the service honorably, because they are up for retirement. Others have come to the end of their agreed-upon service period. Still others are leaving duty because of injuries or impairments that prevent continued participation in the service. Many are looking for a job on the civilian market for the first time in years – possibly ever.

My name is Erica Yeager. I work for Veteran Solutions, Incorporated, a group affiliated with Veterans of Foreign Wars post 8208, out of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. My mission is to help veterans in transition make a success of things in the civilian working world. To that end, I recognize that there are two sides of the employment equation that need attending. The first, “veterans,” is fairly obvious. There are many quality programs in place to help maximize veteran success in transition from the veteran side: resume workshops, interviewing practice events, job fairs, referral services. This side of things is covered, more or less.

The other side of the equation, “employers,” has received relatively scant attention. This, to me, is a very serious oversight and I’m trying to address the lack. Below you will find a link to a survey that is posted on the well-known and secure survey hosting site SurveyMonkey. (If you are unfamiliar with SurveyMonkey, it is a survey hosting site that is currently used by around 80% of Fortune 100 companies to collect data – it is reliable, confidential, and user-friendly.) This survey is designed to measure EMPLOYERS’ perceptions of veteran candidates, both disabled and non. I’m posting here to ask you to take part in this project by completing the survey.

But, my HR department won’t let me participate, there’s no way!
Please hear me out. This survey is secure, both to you personally as a respondent and to your place of business. At no point are you asked to specifically identify yourself, nor to identify where you work. The closest to identification that occurs is a question regarding whether you are in “government,” “private industry” and so on. Also, all potential tracking avenues have been disabled for this survey. The IP address log has been turned off – your IP address will not be linked to your responses, nor stored in any way. Further, the questions ask about perceptions, opinions, and past individual personal experiences, not policy or patterns of action. Your on-topic responses will not be actionable even if they could be tracked back – which they can’t – regardless of what you disclose.* If you are still uncertain after previewing the survey, please feel free to forward the link to your HR department for approval or participation. I welcome HR professionals’ responses as well!

If you are reading this post, and you work for pay, you are part of my target population for respondents. Please consider taking part in this survey. It generally takes only about 15 or 20 minutes – sometimes less, although if you want to take more time you may certainly do so. You may discontinue participation at any time if you change your mind, simply by closing the survey window. There’s no benefit to taking part beyond the possibility that you could be contributing to the employability of veterans, but neither are there any costs. If you do participate, your responses will be analyzed along with all of the others to produce an aggregate picture of public perception of veterans as employees. Having this picture may contribute to improving the job marketability of veterans everywhere.

I thank you for your time and consideration regardless of whether or not you choose to participate, and wish you well. Also, feel free to repost the links below in work-appropriate blogs (nowhere “NSFW” please), pass along to colleagues, and disseminate in good faith through work-appropriate venues as you see fit.

Click here to take survey

*Disclosure of certain off-topic acts including child abuse and violent felonies require that I contact the law enforcement professionals in your area, however, and turn over your responses. These responses still would not have IP logging nor identifiable items included – unless for some reason you chose to type this information in a response -- but I include this caveat here in the spirit of full disclosure and informed consent.

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