Empowering Veterans Beyond Veterans Day: Navigating the Transition to Civilian Life

On this Veterans Day, we take a moment to express our deep appreciation for the men and women who have bravely served our nation in the military. The call to service is not a simple one, and the impact of that service extends far beyond their time in uniform, shaping their lives in profound ways.

Rather than offering a mere "thank you" on this day, let's reflect on how we can honor our veterans not just today, but every day. To do so, it is crucial to comprehend the unique needs of transitioning service members as they embark on their journey from military to civilian life.

Transitioning from the structured world of the military to the civilian landscape is a complex and emotionally charged process. It demands a deep understanding of how individuals cope with the changes inherent in this transition. Nancy Schlossberg's Transition Theory provides us with valuable insights into this intricate journey. Dr. Schlossberg, an esteemed emeritus professor specializing in counseling psychology at the University of Maryland, developed this theory to shed light on the multifaceted nature of transitions. According to her theory, individual experiences of transitions vary significantly based on their personal characteristics and the specific contextual factors at play in their unique situations.

Schlossberg's theory identifies four influential factors that predict how individuals navigate change during transitions: situation, personal resources, coping skills, and meaning of transition.

Schlossberg's Transition Theory Framework Source: ResearchGate

For those of us in HR and Talent Attraction, we should look at how we care for each of these factors in each of the areas of the employee lifecycle. Overall, Schlossberg's theory serves as a structured framework for comprehending how individuals navigate change and transitions throughout their lives. It is particularly relevant for service members transitioning to civilian life, as it helps us appreciate the complexity and variability of this process. By understanding these dynamics, we can develop more inclusive support systems to assist our veterans in navigating new civilian opportunities, particularly in the realm of employment.

The transition from military to civilian employment is notably one of the most challenging aspects of this journey. As underscored in John C. Dexter's 2020 study, "Human Resources Challenges of Military to Civilian Employment Transitions," the shift is often described as "instantaneous" and poses significant reintegration challenges. This rings true for many of us who have been involved in Military Hiring campaigns and initiatives.

Dexter's study, based on qualitative research with newly separated military veterans, highlights several common feedback themes:

  • Employers often lack knowledge about military transferrable skills.
  • Veterans experience anxiety due to employers' lack of clearly defined new-hire processes.
  • Civilian employers frequently misunderstand the realities of total veteran compensation, benefits, and family involvement expectations.

Addressing these areas of concern represents a relatively low-effort approach that can greatly benefit our veteran job seekers. In the realm of Talent Attraction and Employer Branding, part of Military Recruitment Marketing, we must prioritize ensuring this information is readily accessible on tailored landing pages or within the military sections of our career sites.

While veterans tend to have higher employment rates than their civilian counterparts, nearly one-third of them experience underemployment. This challenge can be attributed, in part, to the hurdles related to reduced compensation and benefits upon exiting the military. It is crucial for recruitment teams to ask relevant questions to gain a comprehensive understanding of total compensation. Exploring Military Pay Calculators, such as the one from Veteran.Com, and inquiring about additional components like S&I (Special & Incentive) pay, Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS), Dependent Allowance, and Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) can help provide a more accurate picture of veterans' earnings.

Regarding skills, utilizing Military Skills translators is a helpful starting point. Platforms like MyNextMove.Org offer useful tools for translating military skills into civilian jobs. Additionally, involving military veterans in your organization to assist in understanding different military job titles relevant to your roles can be a meaningful gesture. Collaborating with them to build your own skills translation database demonstrates your organization's gratitude for military service in a profound way.

As we honor our veterans today and every day, let's recognize that the transition from military to civilian life is a complex journey. By leveraging the insights from Schlossberg's Transition Theory and addressing the specific challenges faced by our veterans during this transition, we can build a more inclusive and supportive environment, particularly in the realm of employment. Our commitment to helping our veterans thrive in civilian life is a testament to our genuine appreciation for their service.

To all those who have answered the call of military service for our Nation: THANK YOU for your service. You have demonstrated a level of dedication, a willingness to sacrifice self for the greater good and commitment that I am both grateful for and in awe of. And if I can be of assistance or you need help getting connected to resources, please don't hesitate to reach out. If I can help, I'm glad to do it.

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