We Can Make Military Transition Easier with a Little Authenticity

Veterans and service members speak with business representatives about job opportunities at the Recruit Military Job Fair in San Diego on July 11, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jake McClung)
Veterans and service members speak with business representatives about job opportunities at the Recruit Military Job Fair in San Diego on July 11, 2019. (Jake McClung/U.S. Marine Corps)

Adam Davies is a former Army captain and the founder of Vet it, an online platform for troops, veterans and spouses to review schools and companies. He's currently a scholar at the George W. Bush Institute, and lives in Texas with his wife and three children.

Studies say we veterans fare better than our civilian peers over the arc of our post-military careers, but the initial transition battles we face are still producing far too many casualties.

Perhaps that's because many veterans prefer not to worry over whether the degrees and the jobs we're being offered are, in fact, in our best interest. We buy into them almost on impulse, do less homework about their efficacy than we should, promote ourselves hard, accept the first best offer we receive and then quickly bail when we realize our expectations were misinformed.

That, at least, is what the data seem to indicate. Nearly a third of veterans aren't progressing in higher education pursuits and about two-thirds claim to be underemployed, according to a study from the Call of Duty Endowment.

Poor retention and poor veteran experiences are the inefficient outcomes of navigating the talent war that is being waged even as our military enjoys a sea of goodwill. As we complete our time in service, veterans are somewhat unsuspectingly forced to confront this strange war, so different from those for which we've trained. It's confusing, complicated and there is clearly room for improvement.

The military-connected community needs a reliable source for the kind of "straight talk" cited by the Federal Trade Commission -- open and authentic engagement veterans can trust. But in a marketplace where asymmetric information exists in spades, how can we best shine our individual and collective lights to help each other make better-informed career decisions?

Growing our individual networks and learning more about employers through informational interviews are two of the best career navigation practices. If we're willing to put ourselves out there, adopt a genuinely humble and vulnerable approach, and actually get off our couches to meet other human beings -- live and in person -- then we have a fighting chance.

However, that's not enough. Our national solution must include the creation of intelligent navigation tools that help inform our expectations before we ever join the civilian education and job fray. We need them while we're still in the military, and maybe even before that.

In battle, we have a range of tools, intelligence sources and defensive weapons to choose from, and they get better all the time. To improve post-military career expectations, student dropout rates, job satisfaction and retention, it's about time the tools we use to process and share post-military career insights evolve as well.

The new internet platform Vet it, for example, gives veterans a way to safely share authentic insights about specific industries, functions, schools and employers. In addition to searching through reviewed schools and employers, the platform provides a safe place for the military community to get instant peer advice, discuss school and workplace issues as well as popular industry news, and hear directly from senior industry, affinity group and student leadership on the issues that matter most to them.

For the first time, service members, spouses and veterans considering their career options can review their military peers' student and employee experiences at scale, enriching their authentic trust in and affinity for specific school and employer brands.

As a community, we can help the nation's very best resources -- our warriors and warrior families -- become as prepared for professional life beyond the uniform as they possibly can be. Military-related recruiting efforts must be more than public relations stunts and inclusion initiatives. They are the right thing to do for all the right business reasons and for our national interest.

In today's online landscape where ads pander, "like" buttons condition and puffs prevail, the calls for openness and authenticity are steadily growing.

The question for all of us -- schools, companies and the military-connected community -- is whether we're authentic enough to have a more open, engaging dialogue.

-- The opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Military.com. If you would like to submit your own commentary, please send your article to opinions@military.com for consideration.

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