In 2021, Americans suddenly started quitting their jobs. An estimated 25% of the workforce left their jobs; 4.3 million people did so in August alone. It was a “substantial increase” from pre-pandemic days.
Workers were sick of stagnating wages and a low quality of life as the cost of living climbed higher and higher. Restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to stay home, where they realized life was about more than a 9-to-5 job and began to rethink how they lived and worked. They wanted more family time and less time commuting.
Psychologist Anthony Klotz calls it "the Great Resignation."
As companies work to figure out how to retain their best employees and attract the talent who is suddenly unemployed but looking for remote work, fewer days in the office or one of the other new paradigms that came with this new employment reality.
Jerry Quinn is the chief operating officer of the American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association (AAFMAA) and a 36-year Army officer who is still serving as a reservist. He says the Great Resignation is also an opportunity for veterans and separating service members, who are uniquely positioned to succeed in this new environment.
"Businesses out there are redesigning the way they deliver for their customers, whatever industry that might be in," Quinn tells Military.com. "If I were transitioning right now, this would be my time to really identify what it is I want to do, be sure I'm skilled up and get on board with a new career employer."
AAFMAA is a nonprofit organization that provides insurance, wealth management and other financial services for military members and their families. Like many other businesses, it had to adapt to the new reality, integrating new technologies and adopting remote work for some of its employees.
Remote work, Quinn says, has opened up opportunities for veterans they may not have had access to while in-office work was the norm. Just as AAFMAA identifies jobs and enables careers for remote work, the opportunities are so plentiful in the new environment that veterans can find them almost anywhere.
Those who are interested in careers where remote work isn't possible, such as skilled trades, hospitality and other economic sectors, shortages of good employees mean there are physical openings there, too.
"The information we get from our nonprofit partners, the trends we're seeing in employment and business, all point to opportunities for people interested in those industries," he says. "A fair number of jobs exist there, and people are coming back to patronize those places and services. This is a time when people are able to pick and choose where they want to work."
A new, remote-friendly environment is also good for the military spouse, Quinn notes. As military members change duty stations frequently, their spouse will move with them, uprooting them from their current work and forcing them to find new employment. Remote work is an opportunity to hold a long-term position, an opportunity that may not have existed previously.
"We have recognized that military spouses are unemployed or underemployed at significantly higher rates than most families," he says. "Nearly a third of spouses experience this because of the unique dynamics associated with the military family."
The good news is that veterans and other military-connected people also have unique resources available to them that will aid them in taking advantage of this employment environment.
For transitioning service members, the Department of Defense SkillBridge program allows them to work in training opportunities, internships and apprenticeships during the last 180 days of their enlistment while still receiving full pay and benefits. AAFMAA hires SkillBridge fellows, and its most recent was 100% remote, learning everything he might have learned in an office environment.
One of Quinn's favorite resources is American Corporate Partners (ACP), a nonprofit that pairs service members and veterans with a mentor, one currently working in corporate leadership. Mentorship, he says, is one of the most important assets a veteran can have in their lives. When he was coming out of active duty, a mentor was the one thing he wished he could have had.
Quinn also notes that HireMilitary is an excellent resource for veterans and spouses, as it was founded by veterans to help find meaningful employment for military-connected job seekers for the entirety of the transition life cycle.
These are just a couple of Quinn's favorite partners when it comes to veteran employment. Between the military branches, the Department of Defense and numerous nonprofit organizations, veterans and their family members have ample opportunity to take advantage of the new normal.
"I certainly hope that there's not a single veteran or active-duty member that feels fearful of the civilian job market," Quinn says. "I want to ensure that every service member can recognize the worth that they bring and encourage those that are thinking about a switch that it's not impossible. There are tons of resources out here to help you make that switch."
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