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Transitioning from Military to Civilian Life is Harder Than Many Veterans Realize

Many who have never been in the military have no idea just how hard it can be INSIDE of the military. They know a veteran who spent 20 years in the Army and gets a pension for life. They know someone who learned computer programming in the Air Force and now gets paid well in the civilian world.

While those stories exist, there is considerably more that struggle when it comes to transitioning from military life to civilian life.

The average person only stays in the military for four to eight years. They don’t get any kind of pension. So, as soon as they are honorably discharged, they have to find a job.

But the military provides skills training, right? Sure, but a lot of the training doesn’t translate to civilian jobs. Helicopter gunners were taught how to shoot targets outside of a helicopter. And even many of the IT guys are using systems that are only in the military.

The skills don’t translate to civilian jobs. So, what happens then?

Military Times recently covered a story about Philip Slaughter, a man who left the Army after 18 years. When he was in uniform, he towed food and bullets through war zones. An important job for sure, but how would it translate to the outside world?

Well, he started working as a truck driver for FedEx. And it wasn’t what he wanted to do. It also aggravated some of his PTSD – a common problem for many who exit the military after having done one or more tours.

With sufficient training and enough time to figure out what he wanted to do, he finally landed a position as a sourcing recruiter. Slaughter explained, “I think it’s the first job that I’ve worked 10 consecutive months without quitting.”

The US is actually experiencing one of the lowest monthly veteran unemployment rates – currently sitting at 2.7% in October.

By looking at the rate, it appears that many veterans are able to become employed after leaving the military. However, it hides the fact that many have to take job after job until they find the right fit.

Slaughter has actually decided to help with the problem and runs a consulting firm for fellow veterans. “Even though [veteran unemployment] is low, I’m interested to see a survey on how many people are happy in the position they’re in.”

This would, indeed, be an important survey. Too many veterans aren’t happy in their positions. Their PTSD is triggered. They don’t feel accepted by the civilians. And they lack the confidence to leave in search of a better position because their resume doesn’t translate to civilian jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that veterans make up approximately 7 percent of the civilian population. The jobless rate of veterans makes it easier to determine how the US workforce is assisting former service members to transition. It also reflects on the military to show how they are preparing individuals for departing.

When high veteran unemployment rates are out there, it doesn’t help with recruiting. Many look to the future – and they don’t want to enter the military if they know it’s going to be a struggle when they get out.

Studies show time and again that veterans struggle with adjusting to civilian life – and it’s particularly hard for women because of the “standard discriminatory stuff.”

In today’s downturned economy and recession, transitioning is going to prove to be extra difficult. Veterans might find a job, but it won’t be one that they love. At least not right away.

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