The fighting is not over yet for American veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a new survey shows. For many, the most daunting challenge is just ahead — transitioning to civilian life and getting a job. And that may be the scariest battle of all.
Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of returning troops experience a difficult transition to civilian life, according to a study of 1,845 veterans from the post-9/11 and second Gulf War U.S. deployments. The study was conducted by Prudential Financial with the support of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
The survey found that close to half of veterans did not feel ready to transition largely due to employment and health challenges. They also said they felt the need to take time to decompress after service and "figure out what’s next."
Along with the difficulty of finding a job in the current economy, 60 percent of veterans reported that their most significant challenge is explaining how their military experience translates to skills of interest to a civilian employer. Veterans also pointed to the challenge of competing with candidates who have been in the workforce longer (46 percent) as well as a lack of education for specific roles (43 percent).
But despite the difficulty they report in their transition into civilian roles, 90 percent of job-hunting veterans believe they have the skills needed to land their ideal job. They point to problem-solving, leadership, ethics and time management and, although less frequently, specific skills such as information technology or health care that can be applied to civilian roles.
Although the majority (71 percent) of veterans feel their military service is respected by employers, fewer believe their skills and training are appreciated (56 percent). Moreover, three in five are concerned about translating their skills to a business environment (58 percent) and one in two worry that nonveteran managers do not understand military culture (48 percent).
"With tens of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans returning from service, the good news is that the nation is more focused than ever on helping veterans transition back into civilian careers," said Raymond Weeks, vice president, Veterans Initiatives at Prudential Financial. "But with employment among veterans significantly higher than the population overall, particularly those under 30, the need to help get veterans on career paths has never been greater."