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In between the battlefield and office politics

As military personnel leave Iraq, young veterans are finding minimal job prospects at home. 

Switching careers can be difficult for anyone. Although matching previous skills to new opportunities has become increasingly commonplace in the professional world, young veterans often find themselves comparing apples to oranges. There seems to be a disconnect between potential employers and young veterans returning from war, reports The New York Times.  

“There’s been an upsurge in young people going into the military and not staying for a full 20-year career,” Jane Oates, assistant secretary for employment and training at the Labor Department, told The New York Times. “I think transitions have been difficult, with too few jobs out there and lack of clarity about what the employer wants.” This year, veterans aged 20 to 24 experienced a 30 percent unemployment rate, more than two times that of civilians of the same age.

Managers who have spent their career in the civilian sector may have a hard time translating military accomplishments into the workplace; while young veterans who have only experienced work life in the military may even need coaching on what to wear for an interview. “I’m not necessarily convinced that they have great marketable skills,” Rachel Feldstein, the associate director of New Directions, a center offering drug rehabilitation, professional training and other services to veterans in San Diego, told The New York Times. “If you train someone to be a sniper, those are not necessarily skills that are transferable.”

Even when young veterans have comparable levels of education, they seem to fare worse than their non-military peers on the job market. Cpl. Clayton Rhoden went from earning $2,500 a month inspecting improvised explosive devices and possible bomb factories in Afghanistan to trying his hand at a variety of jobs in every-day society. “I’ve tried restaurants, shipping facilities, construction, snow removal businesses, landscape – pretty much anything that you don’t need a college degree to do,” he told The New York Times. Now living with his parents at 25, Corporal Rhoden sells his blood plasma for $80 a week and takes on extra duty in his Marine Corps Reserve unit when possible.

Although it is illegal for employers to discriminate based on military service, a decade of war has taken its toll on businesses which are required to restore reservists to their previous jobs. “Nearly 65 to 70 percent of employers will not now hire National Guard and Reserve,” Ted Daywalt, who manages in Georgia, told The New York Times. “They can’t run their business with someone being taken away for 12 months.”

Businesses aren’t the only ones working their way through the effects of two foreign wars. 24-year-old Ethan Tomblin-Brooks was injured in Iraq and first diagnosed with P.T.S.D. and later bipolar disorder. He now lives in a camper outside of his parent’s home and finds construction work about once a week. With his current options, he would prefer to rejoin the Army. “I kind of like being told what to do,” he told The New York Times. “It makes it a little easier than figuring it out on your own.”


By Editor Will Cade