Where are you from?  I’ve never been able to answer that question. Hometowns do not exist for those who grow up in a military family; home is, and always will be, wherever I happen to lie my head down at night.  This year will mark my 15 move. That number does not include the four locations I lived in one geographical area nor does it include any move before the age of five or the few times I was sent to various schools the military decided to send me to.

How does this pertain to Veteran’s employment?  Let me explain…

I’ve had the luxury of having two careers almost simultaneously.  I have 20 years experience as an Aviation Electronics Technician in the Navy and over 10 years experience as a Medical Practice Administrator in the civilian workforce.  Due to this lifestyle, my resume has become almost a timeline of my entire adult life.  While of course it emphasizes experience and education it also draws attention to the many times I have moved including a recall to active duty for which I left a job I’d been at less than 90 days.  These highlights can be either helpful or harmful depending on whoever happens to be doing the hiring.

Four months ago, I found myself looking for new employment in the civilian sector.  Long story short, I’m serving on extended orders overseas while attempting to look for civilian employment in anticipation of my return to the U.S.  I’ve sent out hundreds of resumes over the past four months and have had five interviews with two companies.  I was lucky enough to get the interviews I have had but it was not an easy task.  In each of my interviews, my military experience obviously came up and it was evident that it was an issue.  Not that my experience meant little but the fear of my being called up again and my availability came into question several times.  I found this odd but even more so, discouraging.  After the last interview, I really started thinking as to why I would not be considered for one of the open positions.  I was told that I had the qualifications, experience, and that they were sure I could handle the job but my availability was in question due to my commitment to the Navy Reserves. They weren’t sure they wanted to hire me because I may have to leave unexpectedly.  From a business standpoint, I understand their concern; who wants to hire someone who may have to leave due to a national crisis?  They do have a business to run after all.  However, the more I thought about it, the angrier I became.  I am but 1 reservist in a sea of thousands of others who, especially since 9/11, have found themselves in this exact situation at least once in the last 11 years. My experience cannot be that uncommon to that of my fellow reserve/guardsmen and of those who have recently separated from active duty; I can’t be the only one who has experienced this opaque form of discrimination.

Still, it is not merely the fact that qualified Veterans and active reservists and guardsmen are being turned away for positions due to their military affiliation that is upsetting; it is also that many seem to lack the compulsory education/certifications for particular occupations as determined by mainstream America (the 99 percent).  Admiral Mike Mullen has expressed sentiments that there is a growing disconnect between the 1 percent of our nation’s actively serving population and the rest of our citizens.  This attitude is clearly apparent in the civilian job market.  How do we, as Veterans, explain to that 99 percent that we are worth hiring?  That we have skills and experience that our civilian counterparts of the same age will never in their lives experience or even comprehend? That we are adaptable, disciplined, can take (and give) direction, perform under pressure and work with diverse populations?  That they need to take a chance on the other 1 percent?

In speaking with a fellow Veteran recently, maybe the onus isn’t on the 1 percent but the other 99 percent.  Why is it that military members receive extensive training in the fields of electronics, medicine, mechanics, aviation, and administration yet we can barely get a nationally accredited university to grant us little more than three credit hours towards physical education (because we were smart enough to complete boot camp). While we are able to apply for and received certifications in some career fields, they are either not enough, or are not recognized, by many employers. We can continue to write resumes and attempt to translate our skills into civilian terms yet without education that is nationally recognized, we’re back at square one.  The GI Bill is an outstanding benefit and most service members take advantage of it in some capacity but many Veterans should be at least 50 percent completed with their degrees simply by the amount of education and experience they’ve received through the military.  At the very least, they should be allowed to test their competency without having to re-take formal classes.  How can we not grant the required qualifications necessary to obtain employment in the civilian sector to deserving Veterans? How do we tell a military police officer that while he is qualified to carry a weapon and serve in a combat zone that he is not qualified for employment with his hometown police force because he has not gone through their training academy? How is he good enough to go to war but not good enough to respond to 911 calls?

While recent legislation such as the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warriors Tax Credits offer employers a tax incentive to hire certain unemployed and service-disabled Veterans, it’s disheartening that our nation must entice business owners with a monetary bonus to hire those who have already given so much. However, I believe that the reason this legislation actually passed is because we already know that the system is backwards. Our elected leaders suddenly had an ‘Aha’ moment and decided they needed to do something about the high unemployment rate amongst Veterans but instead of requiring that the Department of Defense and America’s numerous college and universities work together to offer certifications and more credits towards college degrees, they decided to tempt employers into hiring us the only way they know how-with money.  All we really need to do is give credit where credit is due; it’s a quite simple concept.

My personal resume screams “no longevity” to a potential employer though it is clear that I have a military background.  I feel very strongly that it is not merely the fact that I have had several moves that is hurting my employment prospects,   it is that employers are still under the false impression that an individual will stay with them for longer than a few years.  We live in a highly mobile society; gone are the days of pensions for employees who stuck around a company long enough to attain them.  The 99 percent must take the chance on hiring Veterans who will give them the best of what they have while they are there regardless of how long that may be. Additionally, our nation must make it less cumbersome for Veterans to obtain the education required to make them successful and competitive with their civilian peers.

However until our nation rights itself in this respect, we, as Veterans, will continue to carry on as we always have and will adapt and overcome the adversity handed out by our own countrymen.

Nichole Olson has served on both active and reserve duty with the U.S. Navy the last 20 years. She will retire from the Navy Reserves later this year.

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23 Comments

  1. Jared April 6, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    I indubitably agree with Nichole; there is a silent discrimination against Veterans in the civilian work force. I was released from active duty in 2002 from the Marines, and again in 2006 from the California National Guard. It is very apparent in my home town of Redding, California because of the heavy anti-military and liberal influences from the Bay Area. Just to give an example; we’ve had quite of few Marines, Soldiers and Sailors killed overseas these past few years that are from here and every one of the funeral ceremonies were interrupted by protesters; totally disgracing the dignity, those families needed. So there is no speculation or assumption about civilian discrimination, it’s real and it’s alive, these types employers know they just can’t be open about it.

  2. JOHN B YAGER March 4, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    I KNOW FIRST HAND WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO COME HOME AND EVERY THING IS DIFFERENT. I FEEL I LEFT SOME THING THERE AND WANT TO GO BACK (RVN). I LIVE WITH THAT EVERY DAY OF MY LIVE. I SEE IT ALL OVER AGAIN WHATS HAPPENS TO VETS. WE HAVEN’T FINNISHED OUR JOB. ALL THE PEOPLE WHO SUPPORTED US WILL DIE..

  3. Steve March 2, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    The deal witg the experience is the credentialing. If the trainers are not credentialed, you cannot get credit. A good example is credits for public speaking. In an Airman’s career, he will go to Airman Leadership School, the NCO Academy and SNCO Academy, learning communication, and giving a total of 10-15 speeches if you went to all three PMEs. That will give you 0 credits toward public speaking. Yet you can go into your base’s education office sit down, take a test, give one speech and get three credits. A pretty good deal, and it is simply because the standards for the CLEP are set by a panel of university faculty. Since colleges are also feeling the economy, and recipients of the GI Bill are some of their best customers, maybe this same process can be used to rate different military training programs, but at the end of the day, the same questions arises, “who is going to pay for this.”

  4. K.W. Snyder March 1, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    Ms. Olson,

    I totally agree with you about military experience versus college credit hours or technical training/licensing equivalency. Why is it that someone with a military background in Avionics, working on communications equipment is NOT automatically given a FCC license after tech school graduation and a set number of years of experience? When I left the Marine Corps in 1984 I was continually told “yeah, you worked Avionics in the Corps, but that doesn’t translate into a job with ********** (insert any commercial airline’s name here). Finally, in 1986 I was hired by TWA as a Hangar Electrician — but couldn’t work on aircraft radios and did not get the license premium for having a FCC license.

    I read where less than three-quarters of one percent of this country’s population serve in the military: active, guard and reserves. Is it too much to have civilian employers (who we’ve been entrusted to protect and defend) go that “extra mile” for us? In my case, I found it obviously was:

    I started a new occupation in my hometown immediately after coming off active duty orders with the Air National Guard in 2010. 168 days into a 180-day probationary period, I was told nothing more than “I see a trend, and don’t like what I see” and “sent home” — fired, in other words. Only after getting DOL-VETS involved did I find out about an evaluation made out on me while I was gone for two weeks on ANG annual field training orders. Despite admitting to this (contrary to the company’s policies), DOL-VETS said my case had “no merit.” After some diligent investigation on my part and a FOIA request for the DOL case file, I contacted an attorney specializing in employment law and gave her the results of my investigation. She was amazed at how open-and-shut this case is, but not surprised that DOL-VETS did such a pathetic job on it. I believe we are close to filing a case, and hope eventually to recover at least some of my lost wages and benefits.

    So I wish you all the best and hope your search becomes fruitful very soon.

  5. Greg February 29, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    I have to agree with you 100%. I medically retired as a MSgt with 23 years with the Air Guard. Had several different job interviews and positiions which I was looked down upon for being military/civilian. One supervisor asked me if “they had to let me go on the deployment,” when I was informing him a month in advance of leaving. But, the real issue is what Ms Olsen and others stated; our military education is NOT considered relevant to civilian jobs. If one is a senior enlisted member, they are more qualified managers, trainers, etc. then most civilians just out of college. Yes, work experience and education is different, but we are educated in those very areas and have the work experience to back it up. Employers today should recognize our longevity as service members is a positive factor for them in hiring us. I hope you the best of luck. Perhaps we as vets need to do a better PR campaign in this regard and also press our representation in Washington too.

  6. Suzanne DalLago February 18, 2012 at 1:51 am

    Many years ago I worked with Nikki Olsen. She was instrumental in setting up a new medical practice where I was a nutritionist. She was the glue that held us all together. She was the “go to” lady. We were a pretty demanding bunch but she organized, managed and ran the whole practice. She was able to do the work of three employees. Whether she was there one month, one week or one year, she was a huge asset in the workplace. The experience that she had being in the military made her a responsible, loyal, hardworking , trust worthy employee.

    People always come and go in jobs. No longer do we celebrate with a gold watch when people have been in the same job for 25 years. Now a days we ask “Why didn’t that person advance and climb up the corporate ladder with other companies”?

    Employees move, have children, get sick, take care of aging parents and die. In other words they leave for all sorts of reason. I would rather take a chance on an outstanding employee who MIGHT stay for a little while or for years. Who really knows the future of anyone you hire? If they get called back to serve, it’s not like they aren’t leaving for a really important reason. You can’t have it all. Take a chance. Hire a vet.

    You will not regret it.

  7. Jon February 15, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    What a horrible title! Discrimination- WOW! What sensationalism. Discirmination is only for those things that we can’t help (skin color, gender, age etc). True, Nicole, you are being technically discriminated against, but it’s something you can change. Leave the Navy reserves if it’s that big of a deal.
    So you want two careers at the same time, and want the benefits, but don’t want to put up with the sacrifice? I had to make this choice at 14, when my hockey coach told me I would have to give up basketball to continue playing hockey. I can’t blame these employers for not hiring you, and after hearing this “Vet Card” rant, I wouldn’t hire you either. Maybe your attitude needs some work, not your resume. You seem to think that you’re entitled to something.

    • Nichole Olson February 16, 2012 at 4:40 am

      The term ‘discrimination’ does not merely encompass those things we cannot change. To ‘discriminate’ is to make a difference in treatment based on anything other than merit. When an employer tells you that you have all of the qualifications that they are looking for in an employee and the only difference between you and your competition is that you are in the military reserves, then that IS discrimination.

      Service in the military should not be used as an excuse to get what one wants and I have never and will never use the ‘Vet Card’ for personal gain nor do I personally know of anyone that has. My point was to bring to light the challenges that many are facing in addition to highlighting that Veterans are a valuable human resource. In the same manner that a person’s sex, race, or physical disability should not come into question if they have the necessary skills to effectively fulfill all job requirements then neither should a person’s military affiliation. The military does not define us; but it should it be used against us. If anything, it makes us better for having served and provides us with opportunities and experience that others who choose not to will never enjoy.

      Thank you for your response and I sincerely hope that you do not face these challenges during the course of your career as we are all entitled to a fair chance.

      • Nichole Olson February 16, 2012 at 4:43 am

        Correction: Our military affiliation should not be used against us (last line in 2nd paragraph).

      • Jon February 23, 2012 at 5:19 pm

        Thanks for responding, Nichole, and I agree with you. Military service should not be held against a job-seeker. I apologize if I came off rude.
        However, I take exception to the “challenges” you are highlighting. I have friends who have faced challenges in finding suitable civilian employment. One does not like being in public, because people stare at his shrapnel pock-marked face. Another with burns on his arms and face. Another who has difficulty finding a job suitable (and accomodating) for a double amputee, after losing his legs to an IED. I can’t even keep track of friends who have difficulty staying in a job because after you’ve seen life and death before your eyes, it’s hard to worry about TPS reports. These are challenges.
        I’m sorry you have experienced this issue. Hopefully, when you retire form the Navy, it will resolve itself. The same can’t be said for the many Marines I know who are now struggling with being “normal” again. Take care, and count yourself lucky (as I do everyday) that we’re still on this Earth.

  8. jc February 14, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    The comment that military vets should be “50% done with a degree by the time they get out” due to their work experience is preposterous. Good schools (read: not crappy online schools) DO give you credit depending on what your job was and whether or not what you did in training was vocational or college credit. I went to language school so I got about 36 college credits and didn’t have to take any foreign languages. There are some people whose MOS (or AFSC) training counted for even more than that.
    “Life experience” and “work experience” don’t translate to college credit. Surely it adds to one’s appeal for an employer, I would have to imagine, but to equate it with college is to make a big mistake. Experience and education are different things, and most employers want both. Luckily, the VA gives us pretty stellar education bennies so we have both of those things if we choose to avail ourselves of what they’re offering.

  9. Ken February 13, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    Nothing seems to have changed. I retired on 20 with the last six years as E-9. I was making corrections for many of the manuals used in submarine SONAR for several years. A job with BuShips was advertised in Navy Times for that specific area. I called & the first thing they asked was if I had a degree in English. Of course I didn’t & they said it was a requirement. I asked if they realized that I was the originator of most of the changes/correction to manuals for the last 6+ years. Didn’t make any difference. So, like Dan & others, just taking off the uniform made me stupid & no longer qualified to do what I’d been doing with recognition all those years. I ended up as a tech writer for one of the submarine builders. They said my submarine experiences, teaching instructors & technical subjects was just what they wanted. So, even though things haven’t changed much, hang in there young lady – I retired in 1974 – I’m sure you will be blessed with a great reward for your service to the country.

  10. Russ Page February 13, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Nichole,

    When I was leaving the Air Force in 1995, I was faced with the same issues. After 21 years in the Air Force, with a wealth of experience, I found that the “Civilian Sector” was ignorant as to what we do and learn in the Military. The basic response was, “Well, you served 21 Years in the military, But what can you do…”. And this was with a resume that had been vetted for translation to civiliian speak. Long story short, ny hopped for break from aviation and defense didn.t quite happen, but I am blessedto be working, non stop since I retired. Suggest you keep plugging at this, there are those who will hire you BECAUSE of you commitment to the reserve.

    Best of Luck,

    Russ

  11. Vince February 12, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    Nichole:
    I am also a Naval Reservist having served 3 years of active Navy time on board ship and 18 years in a drilling capacity with numerous units up and down the east coast. I’m now a “gray area” reservist. I was just wondering if you had heard about the latest thing for employers to do to “hamstring” dedicated naval Reservists? Employer are now requiring prospective employees to sign an agreement when they hire on that they will accept binding arbitration if/when they are mobilized and then want too return to the job they had prior to being deployed. We all know how that kind of arbitration tends to go. The arbitrator will invariably tend to rule on the side of the employer of course so where will that leave the reservist/ guardsman? I guess you have to die to deserve the graditude of a grateful nation huh?

    Vince Blanchard
    vincent.blanchard@comcast.net
    410-569-9756 I have Vonage

  12. Tony Roberts February 12, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    Your post outlines the problem veterans have in obtaining a job in the civilian sector. When I’m applying for jobs, I always feel like all the experience I received while in the military was all for nothing and it doesn’t count for anything in the end – even after various civilian translations done professionally. I feel at this point, the GI Bill was an outstanding idea in the past but nowadays, it hasn’t fixed the problem for the majority of veterans trying to get a good-paying job and care for themselves and their family because of the state of the economy but also the apparent necessity of picking a “cut-out” degree for the sake of living and putting food on the table. I feel that we should get rid of the GI Bill and have several universities in cooperation with VA and DoD conduct a comprehensive review of military records of soldiers and issue degrees based on the amount of experience and training they received while they were in. A portion of the freed-up GI Bill funding can go towards the several participating universities and the rest of the funding should go towards DoE Grants for traditional students and/or paying down our deficit.

  13. Dan Hurst February 10, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    I enjoyed her article and experienced a similar occurance when I retired from the military. While on active duty I was allowed to instruct and train nursing staff from a civilian school in California in a exchange program. I enjoyed it greatly. Over three years the program was very successful and I recieved recognition from both the cilvilian school and the military. Upon retirement I was not allowed to teach at this same school due to regulations for credentinaling in California. Now that seems to be a redundent law or regulation. My experience and teaching did not change becasuse I changed from a uniform to a civilian one. Only the fact that Califronia has allowed its laws to supercede federal regs and they told me I would have to take 50% of my classes over in California to get certified. I have a Masters in Education and to redo the required amount would have cost over 100,000 dollars just to satisfy the requirements for California. So I was then unemployed, unable to use my degree because its units were obtained at different installations inconus. And all because of the rules that California has that is finacially a ploy to pick the pocket of military people for money. It is unfair/discrimiatory and sad for this country.

  14. Eduardo Estrada February 9, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    I agree. I had to demilitarize my resume after I came back to the states from Okinawa, Japan after four years in the Marines. I would have finished my 4 yr degree but my first sergeant and commanding officer didn’t believe anyone in the platoon needed to go to college. I stuggled at first but once I got my degree it didn’t even matter. My IT certificates got me the work 90% of the time. I was turned down from one job just because the person interviewing asked if I was disabled or had any pending disability with the VA. I told the truth and I didn’t get the job. Most of the crap I have dealt with was that one employer didn’t like the resume style or that it was too long. The safest bet is to keep the experience and job duties on there especially anything with management and major accomplishments that saved your platoon/company/battalion/wing/etc money, manpower, or made your group more efficient. Also know what your worth. The military has a funny way of telling you that your civilian equivalent makes X amount of dollars but your yearly salary and benefits is really low compared to the civilian equivalent. good luck

  15. vikki February 9, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Well written – this letter should be sent to every Representative and Senator in the
    country. You go girl!!!!

  16. Tonya Dallas February 9, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    I agree, with Tim. Also there are “those” veterans who make it bad, for the other veterans in trying to obtain a career, because of the negative talk concerning PTSD and such. I know veterans, who have PTSD, missing limbs, TBI and other medical problems that would normally rule anyone out, for a job! Some veterans abuse the system and the press blows things out of proportion thus civilian employers “do not” want to hire veterans! What I do not understand is that if prospective civilian employees are “better” employees, why are there so many civilians still unemployed?

  17. Tim Scarbrough (Veteran Rep) February 9, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Nichole….have you ever thought of ‘civilianizing’ your resume? I’ve had to do this many times since I got out in 2007 after 21 years as an Army Engineer. Have you ever spoken to a vet rep in CONUS?

    • Nichole Olson February 10, 2012 at 2:58 am

      My resume is ‘civilianized’ as I have over 10yrs of civilian work experience in the medical field. I’ve had several veterans including vet reps review. The problem is not my resume; the issue is that they see several moves and deployments so they automatically assume that I won’t stick around or will be recalled. Thank you for responding!

      • Jordan May 1, 2012 at 2:25 pm

        i loved your post and had a question for you. Is it just me or do civilians seems to not care at all if you’re a veteran. i did 4 years in the navy from 04 to 08 and i received a hometown hero award when i got out. i just feel like there’s no respect or consideration for military vets in the civilian work force. and i gotta tell ya, nothing upsets and enrages me more. i believe something needs to be done. something big. i just don’t know what. am i only one out there who feels this way?

    • Matt Hanks February 10, 2012 at 3:56 am

      Good morning Mr. Scarbrough,

      After reading your response, I had to read through Nichole’s article again to see if I missed something, and I don’t think I have. Nichole stated clearly the employers she has had, and the ones who have contacted her do not have a problem with her resume, qualifications, or leadership ability (in my mind, this says her resume is spot-on). Instead, they have all defaulted to her affiliation with the Naval Reserves, and question her availability and commitment as an employee with their organization due to the “potential” of being recalled for Active Duty.

      Civilianizing a resume is extremely important, I will not debate this, as we, as Veterans need to translate acronyms such as COD (Chief of the Day) into Security Manager and terms such as “Rover” into Armed Security Guard. I have a new respect for Active Drilling Reservists/Guardsmen. In the first 8 years of my Naval Career, comments such as “Weekend Warriors” and “Those who are afraid to commit” were common. Since 9-11 and my last 11 years, drilling Reservists have answered the call, and while yes, they are fullfiling their duties as reservists, and they have the Soldiers and Sailors Act behind them should they depart, there is only so much a civilian organization is going to adhere to this policy when a manager in their organization is gone for 6-8 months every 18 months.

      The important part, in my humble opinion, is we, the Veterans should not have hand-outs, but support from our Government, Universities, the American Business’ should work together in harnessing the unique ablities, work ethics, skillsets and have them translated already, the only “civilianization” we should have to make to our resumes are the translation of acronyms and “military jargon”.

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