Study Shows Vets Struggle to Translate Experience

Counseling servicemember conversation.

CHANTILLY, Va. -- Veterans have a hard time telling their story and hiring managers have a difficult time interpreting it, according to a new survey released Thursday by the Military Benefit Association, with support from MetLife.

The results shine a spotlight on the challenges new veterans face when transitioning from the armed forces to civilian employment. Data from the new survey also demonstrates an opportunity for companies hiring new veterans to increase job satisfaction.

The national surveys were conducted online by Harris Interactive© among more than 300 hiring managers across industries and company sizes from July 23-29, 2013, and among more than 250 recently separated veterans from July 23-Aug. 23, 2013.

"Our nation's heroes deserve a hero's welcome into civilian employment," said retired U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt.  Roy Gibson, president of the Military Benefit Association. "However, while there is substantial training available to military personnel months before they separate, service members still face many struggles as they make the transition to the civilian sector."

MBA infographic snippet.

Hiring Managers & Veterans: A Shared Perspective

Seventy-nine percent of unemployed veterans that have recently separated and have applied and/or interviewed for jobs feel it is at least somewhat difficult to translate their military skills into something a civilian hiring manager can relate to. Further, 72% of hiring managers say they also find it at least somewhat difficult to ascertain recent veterans' skill set suitability just from their resume alone.

Among new veterans that are employed (working full or part time), two-thirds say it was at least somewhat difficult to find work after separation.

New Veterans Meet Surprises in Civilian Employment

Frustration extends beyond translating military experience into civilian employment. There is a clear disconnect between veterans' expectations for post-military life and the reality they meet. More than two-thirds (69%) of unemployed veterans feel it is at least somewhat likely that they'll use military-related skills in their next job. In reality, 59% of working veterans say they do not use their military experience at work.

Finding civilian work post-separation is not immediate and poses unemployment challenges:

  • Half of those recently separated from the U.S. military and currently unemployed have not had a full- or part-time job since detaching;  
  • Among those unemployed, 31% have been unemployed for up to three months;
  • Forty percent of unemployed veterans have been out of work for 4-12 months;
  • Three in 10 unemployed veterans who have recently separated have been out of work for more than one year; 
  • Roughly one in 10 (13%) have been out of work for more than two years.

Job Dissatisfaction in Civilian Employment

Among new veterans currently employed, a large opportunity exists to increase job satisfaction. Eighty-three percent of new veterans who are in their first job since separating and took something temporary are looking for a more suitable job. Veterans say a better job means: 

  • Making more money (66%)
  • Better job stability (52%)
  • A better work/life balance (50%)
  • Promotion opportunities (48%)
  • A strong benefits package (47%)

Addressing the Problem

The Military Benefit Association believes soon-to-be veterans should take advantage of organizations built around supporting transition into civilian life and beyond. While the Military Benefit Association works to ensure veterans' financial futures, organizations like American Corporate Partners, for example -- which pairs ex-military members with corporate mentors based on career objectives and professional experience to help with the transition to the private sector -- can also be of value to soon-to-be veterans. As active-duty military transition to civilian life, the Military Benefit Association also recommends veterans work with a professional, or even a seasoned civilian, to create a strong resume and practice interviewing. 

"Given the challenges they face, it's clear our country's heroes need to begin thinking and acting like veterans well before they leave active duty," Gibson said. "For example, during the transition from active duty, someone who has a specialty skill in repairing jet engines should think of themselves more broadly as a mechanic instead of simply an aircraft technician."


The Military to Civilian Transition Study was conducted online by Harris Interactive© on behalf of Military Benefit Association among 303 U.S. hiring managers, fielded between from July 23-29, 2013, and 254 veterans recently separated from the U.S. military (who have separated within the past four years) fielded between July 23-Aug. 23, 2013. 

If you're also having trouble figuring out how your military experience translates to civilian jobs, check out's Military Skills Translator. Be sure to make use of our resume writing service as well; a one- to three-day turnaround with a 99.9% rate of satisfaction is hard to beat.

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