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Career Development for Military Veterans Career Development in · PDF file CAREER DEVELOPMENT FOR MILITARY VETERANS 7 Program (NVUBP), and the Veteran's Educational Assistance Program,

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    Career Development for Military Veterans

    Career Development in HRD

    Shirley Maria Marin

    Texas A&M University



    Transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce can be challenging for veterans.

    Many of them struggle to adapt to their new lifestyle, while simultaneously searching for a

    civilian career that adequately meets their needs and interests. Most veterans also require

    considerable assistance in composing resumes, refreshing their interviewing skills, and learning

    how to job-search using modern tools and techniques. Thus, this research aims to uncover career

    counseling programs and services that are currently available to today’s separating military. The

    findings of this research indicate that there are a number of resources available to aid veterans in

    their career development. These programs are grounded on credible career counseling theories

    and have proven to be effective in helping veterans advance in their non-military careers. The

    programs, services, and resources discussed in this study are useful to helping military veterans

    assimilate into the civilian workforce.


    Purpose of the Research

    The purpose of this research is to examine existing career development programs and

    career counseling services for military veterans. In addition to exploring available resources, this

    study aims to uncover the effects of prior military service on veterans seeking employment

    outside of the military. Finally, this research study will expand on the advantages and

    disadvantages associated with dual career opportunities. These research questions will be

    answered as they pertain to the following three types of veterans:

    1. Retired Veterans

    2. Medically Discharged Veterans

    3. Non-Career Veterans

    The findings of this study will benefit soldiers who are preparing to separate from the military, as

    well veterans who have already separated and are struggling to transition between the military

    and civilian workforce.


    According to Sergeant Andrew Haagan, a military recruiter for high school students in

    the St. Louis Area, 70 percent of military recruits enlist right out of high school (CHS Globe,

    2010). The current state of our economy is only further increasing this percentage because

    students are desperately searching for job security. The military offers the job security and

    benefits that these students yearn. Thus, upon graduation many of them join the military and

    remain members of the Armed Forces for a minimum of eight years under military contract

    (Military Advantage, 2012). As a result, when these soldiers are ready to separate from the

    military, they often encounter difficulties transitioning between the two life styles; particularly,


    in the area of career development. Having been service members for so long, they tend to lack

    educational experience, as well as résumé -building, job searching, and interviewing skills.

    "Switching from a military to a civilian career is a big step and it can be extremely difficult"

    (Regis University, 2012); thus most veterans require professional assistance to complete the


    Another group of veterans that often requires professional help separating from the

    military are retired veterans. While service contracts are eight years minimal, some soldiers find

    it worthwhile to make a career out of the military by completing 20 years in their branch of

    service. Unlike soldiers who choose to leave the service after their contracts expire, soldiers who

    make a career out of the military have increased opportunities to pursue higher education while

    in the service. Programs like the Armed Forces Tuition Assistance Program offer up to $4,500 a

    year for tuition and fees, and some branches offer full ride scholarships in return for contract

    extensions (Military Advantage, 2012).

    In addition, many of these soldiers retire very young, some even as early as 38 years old.

    Nonetheless, while these soldiers have the advantage of retiring at an early age, many of them

    have to continue working after their military retirement in order to meet their financial needs.

    Therefore, much like soldiers who separate from the military without retiring, they too need

    professional assistance in entering and succeeding in the civilian workforce. Another issue that

    retired veterans face is lack of work experience in their field of study. While the military

    facilitates the opportunity to obtain higher education, rarely does a soldier's degree have

    considerable relevance to their actual job in the military (Military Advantage, 2012). Therefore,

    when they separate from the military, even though they have a degree, they lack practice or

    experience in the field.


    Lastly, some soldiers are forced to separate from the military due to medical discharges.

    Wounded war veterans face difficulty in their career development after separating from the

    Armed Forces, but often require a different degree of professional assistance than other veterans.

    While career counseling is an integral part of the assimilation process (NCDA, 2007), disabled

    veterans often struggle with more than just adapting to a different career path. They

    simultaneously struggle to recover from physical injuries, anxiety disorders, depression, post

    traumatic stress disorder, and other disabling conditions. Because career counselors play a

    significant role in the rehabilitation of disabled veterans, the National Career Development

    Association (NCDA) encourages career counselors to remain mindful of and incorporate

    interventions that address the barriers to employment this population faces.

    While the transition between the military to the civilian sector can vary depending on the

    individual case of veterans, regardless of their reason for separating from the military they all

    share the common need to obtain professional assistance and guidance in career development.

    Whether they need help in pursing higher education, finding opportunities for field practice, or

    coping with disabilities while also trying to enter the civilian workforce, all veterans require the

    help of career counselors to obtain the "proper tools ... to ensure their ability to independently

    reach their career and employment goals" (NCDA, 2007).

    Major Findings

    Research shows that there are countless of career development programs and career

    counseling services offered to military veterans. Some are sponsored by the Armed Forces,

    others by the Directorate of Veteran Affairs, and some are offered by non-military organizations

    that have a genuine interest in helping former service members integrate into the civilian

    workforce. In addition to programs, veterans are also offered resources that afford them the


    opportunity further their education. By obtaining a degree or brushing up on former skills and

    knowledge, veterans are better able to progress in their careers after separating from the military.

    Americans take pride in serving their country and find a sense of honor in their military

    service. Spencer (2011) reinforces this notion stating, "The soldiers in our military are proud of

    this nation, its principles, and most of all its unwavering commitment to freedom" (p.2). It is

    important for these service men and women to continue to find self-worth in their careers even

    after separating form the military. Niles and Harris-Bowlsbey (2009) address the link between

    work and worth in their textbook Career Development in the 21st Century. They argue that a

    person's career shapes their outlook on life and greatly influences the way they perceive

    themselves. For many individuals work is a reflection of who they are and what they stand for,

    thus people's self esteem can quickly unravel if their work situations go awry (Herr, Cramer, &

    Niles, 2004). Furthermore, Feller and Whichard (2005) postulate that people live and work in

    search for significance. That is, people often find purpose and motivation in their careers.

    Because there is such a strong correlation between a person's career and self-worth, career

    development programs and services have been established to help America's heroes continue to

    feel like their contributions to society remain meaningful and appreciated.

    Existing Programs and Services

    Some of the most prominent career development programs available to military veterans

    include, but are