Monday, May 26, 2008

Sometimes the Real Battle Begins When Vets Return Home and Try to Find a Job

Eight months ago I wrote a column for Gannett News Service and USAToday.com about ex-military personnel having a tough time finding private sector jobs in this country. I also blogged about the problem, and several others bloggers joined in, including Jason Alba at JibberJobber. Since then, Alba has launched JibberJobberUSA, which is designed to help those returning home from deployment.
Still, many vets struggle with not only physical and mental challenges, but face a lackluster economy and a very tough job market. I thought on this Memorial Day, it would be a good idea to re-run this post and remind all of us that we still have a lot of work to do.

When signing up to serve our country, new recruits often are told how their military career will lead to good jobs when they one day re-enter the civilian world.

That appears to be complete bulls**t, according to Dan Caulfield. I recently spent nearly an hour talking to Caulfield, an articulate, passionate and committed guy who gave me a real earful about the pitiful state of affairs regarding employment for our veterans.

Despite having served with honor and serving in some of the most dangerous parts of the world, these vets have a tougher time than other job seekers looking for work – those age 20-24 often have an unemployment rate two to three times higher than non-veterans of the same age group.

Caulfield calls it the “military service penalty,” which he says comes about because too many civilians who do the hiring are personally unfamiliar with the military.

He says that only those who have a “personal” relationship with someone in the military end up hiring vets.The problems don’t end there. He says that not only does the military do a lousy job transitioning military personnel into the civilian working world, but vets lose the very thing they need most when getting a job – their military network.

It’s networking, he asserts, that still is the critical aspect of finding a job.That’s why Caulfield started Hire a Hero with about a half million dollars of his own money, because he wants to make sure that there is a community ready to do more than “than just put a yellow ribbon on their car.”

“It only makes sense that those who have done the most to protect the American dream participate fully in its rewards,” says the group’s website. Hire a Hero focuses on helping vets connect with people locally who can help them get jobs.

By allowing vets to post requests for help, and information about themselves, the site helps connect vets with hundreds of companies willing to temploy hose who have served. At the same time, the social networking aspect helps vets support each other during the difficult period of returning to civilian life and trying to find a job.

The site is filled with personal stories and requests for help. “Where do I go from here?” asks one vet. “I hope employers … do not hold it against me that I just served four years in the Army as a combat medic.”

Notes another: “Man, this is so crazy – I can’t believe it’s hard to find a job! I don’t feel like the world owes me anything for serving in the military, but can they just give me a chance.”

Caulfield says that one of the group’s missions is to continue to educate employers that vets (some 250,000 will leave active service this year) are about more than just being “disciplined,” a description he says that can come off as patronizing and one-dimensional. He says these men and women have many more valuable job skills that give them qualifications to be more than “front-line” workers.

"You learn so many valuable things in the military – these people know how to solve problems, how to work together and have a lot of personal integrity,” he says. “They make excellent employees, and they deserve a place at the table.”


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Friday, July 20, 2007

An Idea for the Inexperienced

When Jason Alba found himself laid off from his job a couple of years ago, he came to an important realization: While he was a manager and had an MBA, he was competing against those with much more experience in the job market.

“People I was competing against had a lot more depth,” he says. “Most of the recruiters were looking at people with a lot more years than me.”

That experience impressed upon him the need to continually manage his own career by networking more effectively and establishing his own personal brand so that he would stand out to potential employers now and in the future, even if he didn’t have decades of experience.

Alba, founder of JibberJobber (www.jibberjobber.com) says that it’s the need for breadth and depth in the job market that spurred him into creating the “You Get It” award (http://www.jibberjobber.com/blog/?p=87), for someone who is doing a great job to develop their professional presence, often through a blog and Web site.

“You can quantify your depth and breadth of experience through a blog over time, to show what you can do,” Alba says. “It’s not a job seeker blog. I don’t like those. It’s more a way to show what your passions are, how good you are at what you do.”

That said, Alba cautions that anyone blogging should do it wisely, avoiding the all-too-common pitfall of “using bad language and being screwy and unfocused,” he says.

“You want to see someone’s personality, and show your depth and breadth as your blog is developed,” he says. “But you don’t want to stand out in the wrong way.”

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