From service to success: Help veterans thrive

Kelly Murphy

I begin this column with deep gratitude for all who served — and continue to serve — our country. Your sacrifices and those of your families have preserved our freedoms.

Veterans bring a unique set of skills and experiences to the work place. Unfortunately, many veterans face challenges in transitioning from military service to civilian employment. Despite the valuable qualities they possess, veterans often struggle to find employment that matches their abilities and interests.

I’d like to explore the talents veterans offer employers, the obstacles veterans encounter in searching for jobs and the financial benefits available to companies that employ veterans.

Consider first the benefits veterans bring to work through their education from the War College of their respective branches. Many veterans attend this graduate-level institution that focuses on military strategy, national security and leadership skills. While the skills might not be directly comparable to civilian universities, employers could recognize value in fields related to competitive intelligence, forecasting, defense, national security, risk and crisis management and strategic planning. Various degrees may be obtained through this educational opportunity, including master’s degrees in strategic studies. A variety of certificate programs also are offered.

In addition to education, veterans bring a range of skills and experiences to the work place, including adaptability, leadership, problem-solving, teamwork and strong work ethics. They’ve received extensive training in a variety of fields. In addition, veterans often have worked in diverse and challenging environments, making them well-equipped to navigate complex situations and handle high-pressure situations.

I remember my husband coming home from the Air Force saying, “We can adapt and overcome.” I despised that saying at first. Now I live by it.

Even with all that veterans bring to civilian work places, they face challenges translating military skills to civilian jobs, adjusting to new work structures and dealing with physical and mental health issues. Civilian settings often feature a slower decision-making process, lower intensity levels in a quieter and calmer environment and relaxed schedules and attitudes. Sounds blissful? Maybe not when your mind and body are trying to adapt.

Veterans also experience discrimination or bias due to stereotypes about their service. In the military, veterans become used to a chain of command. Civilian work places tend to involve a more collaborative approach. The military also places a strong emphasis on discipline, adherence to rules and regulations and following orders without question.

How can we support veterans in transitioning to civilian jobs?

Offering veteran-specific training, mentorship programs, a welcoming work place culture and competitive benefits. Companies also can connect with potential candidates by partnering with veteran-focused organizations and attending veteran job fairs. Through these practices, employers gain a reputation for supporting individuals mastering the evolution from troops to work team. 

If veteran employees appear willing to talk about their experiences, be a good listener. If they don’t want to share, respect their decisions. Encourage and support them with patience and provide opportunities for them to succeed by applying the skills they learned in the military to their work.

Employers receive incentivizes to hire veterans leaving the military through such legislative actions as the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. This provides a federal income tax credit to employers that hire individuals from certain groups that consistently face employment barriers. The credit can be claimed for wages paid during the first year of employment for those hired on or before Dec. 31, 2020 and who work at least 120 hours. Currently, the credit will remain available through the end of 2025.

In Colorado, a policy gives preference to veterans and certain eligible family members in the hiring process for state government jobs. The policy aims to honor the service and sacrifice of veterans and their families by providing them with additional opportunities for employment.

Hiring a veteran can be a mutually beneficial decision for both veterans and employers. Veterans bring unique skills, experiences and perspectives to the work place that can lead to increased innovation, productivity and teamwork. Employers that hire veterans could be eligible for tax credits and other incentives.

By investing in veterans, employers not only support those who’ve served our country, but also enhance their businesses. It’s a win-win situation that benefits individuals and society.