Getting Over the Hurdle of Long-Term Unemployment

Community Manager
Community Manager

Content provided courtesy of USAA.



When Philip Holmes retired in June 2012 after a 20-year career with the Army military police, he thought he would find a job quickly. He had supervised law enforcement for a community of 10,000 people, and he had earned an MBA with a concentration in information technology. But one year and 200 applications later, he hadn’t found anything.


“It’s horrible to go from the military, from being a breadwinner, from being needed and part of a team where you feel you’re contributing something, to being unemployed,” says Holmes, who found a temporary position with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Denver in December.


Being out of a job long term is not a life sentence for an unemployed veteran. These five steps can help get a career back on track.


1. Plan early


The best way to escape long-term unemployment is to never get in it. Service members should begin planning their civilian career 18 to 24 months before leaving the military.


2. Consider making a move


Veterans must be willing to relocate to places where there is work. USAA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes® project put together a Best Places program to highlight where veterans are most likely to find jobs related to their skills.


3. Explore your network


James Souders, who spent six years in the Marine Corps and the National Guard, learned the networking lesson when he began looking for a project management job near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in January 2013. In four months of submitting online job applications, Souders, 34, didn’t get one interview.


“In April, I started to network outside of blindly applying to jobs,” says Souders, who reached out to people he knew to find jobs that weren’t posted.


In May, he had his first interview. In December, he found work as an IT project manager after contacting the career counseling office at Penn State, his alma mater.


4. Leave the military behind


Landing a civilian job requires understanding what hiring managers want and making corresponding changes in how you market yourself.


Remove military terminology and acronyms from your resume, and explain your experience using words that have value in the civilian world.


5. Stay positive


In the end, no matter how difficult long-term unemployment is, those suffering through it should remember that it can be overcome, and it is not a reflection of their value as a person.