Veterans’ Career Development:
Serving Those Who Have Served


Welcome to this course on helping veterans with their career development issues. Veterans are a valuable and largely untapped resource in today’s employment landscape. They are capable of providing leadership, creativity, and flexibility to the civilian organizations they join following military service.  Their determination to reach challenging goals combined with their ability to quickly learn and synthesize new information makes veterans great assets for civilian organizations to promote strategic growth. For veterans to be most effective in pursuing civilian employment they need to work with career advisers who are sensitive to veterans’ unique needs in career development. 

This course is designed for personnel in a career services setting – career counselors at higher education career centers, career counselors in private practice, career coaches, and those in related workforce development positions – working with veterans who are engaged in career development as part of the civilian job search process following military service.

The course is divided into five parts to walk you through some of the challenges and concerns veterans experience as well as strategies to teach you how to help veterans overcome roadblocks to find employment success. Follow the directions for each part and be sure to complete the worksheet items as instructed.

Please WATCH this video to get a better understanding of challenges our current veterans experience as they leave military service and move toward civilian employment.

Download this worksheet to your computer and complete the items as you go through the course. Remember to save your worksheet each time you work on it.  You will send your completed worksheet to the instructor for review.  Upon satisfactory completion of the course as demonstrated by the worksheet, you will receive a certificate for 9 CEU clock hours. You will have 45 days to complete the course requirements.

You will be asked to complete an evaluation at the end of the course. One of the questions relates to the time it took you to complete the course requirements. 

Please be sure and keep track of the time you take to complete the requirements of this
course so that we have an accurate reflection of the workload.

At the end of this course you will be able to: 

  • Recognize characteristics of the population of returning veterans
  • Understand and remove barriers limiting veterans’ access to career development resources
  • Engage sensitively and competently with veterans
  • Evaluate current resources and strategies for effectiveness in career advising with veterans
  • Create resources and practices that enable veterans’ sustainable employment success through advising

Each of the five major parts are related to the learning objectives stated above. The best way to assure completion is to set aside 5-6 blocks of time when you can fully concentrate on the course requirements. As you move through each part, you will be asked to read information, view videos, and answer questions on your worksheet. 

***** Specific directions to view a video, read an article, or answer questions are listed in red.*****

Materials in this course are copyrighted and are for your use in this course only.

If you are ready to begin, go to Part 1 of the course.

The Current Veteran

Service members join the military for many reasons.  Some feel it is their duty to serve out of patriotism or a desire to defend their nation, others come from military families and follow their family members’ footsteps into service, a few are looking for adventure or a challenge beyond what they believe the traditional workforce can provide them, and a number want or need the educational benefits provided for military service so they can reach career opportunities otherwise unavailable to them. 

Whatever their reasons for entering, service members make a commitment to an organization and a job for a specified length of time and agree to follow that commitment wherever it leads.  Since September 11, 2001, that commitment has led most to at least one deployment where they have engaged in work that is unknown or unrelated to most civilians’ experiences.  The work service members do in the military depends on the branch and level in which they serve, the skills and specialties needed at the time, and their abilities.

In this section you will learn about a number of characteristics and experiences of the current Post 9/11 veteran population as well as some of the common stereotypes about them.

To get started thinking about common perceptions of veterans, READ Divisive Narratives and Good Intentions.

Answer questions 1-2 on your worksheet.

READ the following document to learn about veterans’ experiences joining and serving in the military. Engaging in Military Service

Answer questions 3-4 on your worksheet.

WATCH the following video as I tell you about who today’s veterans are.

Answer questions 5-6 on your worksheet.

Now that you have learned more about the general characteristics and experiences of Post 9/11 veterans, WATCH this 48 minute video to gain a better understanding of what it is like to serve overseas as many of veterans have done.

Answer questions 7-10 on your worksheet.

Dangerous and damaging stereotypes about veterans create some of the largest challenges that veterans face in their return to civilian life. The difference between civilian and military culture is one of the many reasons stereotypes exist.

READ the following two articles to learn more about how veterans are sometimes perceived.

An Army Apart: The Widening Military-Civilian Gap 

The gap is real: 7 out of 10 vets feel misunderstood by others 

Answer questions 11 and 12 on your worksheet.

Once you have completed this section, be sure you have answered all the related questions on your worksheet.  Then move on to Part 2.

The Unique Veteran Population

Veterans in the career development process struggle with self-advocacy and self-efficacy as they transition to civilian employment within job search systems with which they are unfamiliar and of which they do not feel a part.  They recognize that their experiences and capabilities as veterans may not translate directly to civilian work and are challenged with how to help others make sense of their previous military work.  Their sense of being able to take ownership of their career development and employment search is challenged by the very processes intended to support and develop them as prospective employees.Veterans know they have capabilities and experience that will benefit the industries they want to work within, but they need help forming and learning to share their message.  Veterans feel the changes in themselves from their experiences in military service that they believe should make them more effective employment seekers. They hope that potential employers will also sense the maturity and confidence gained in service that the veterans believe they embody.

Veterans want to make sure their maturity from military service comes through to employers but struggle with the systems in place that do not allow them to directly interact with employers. They have found that the online recruiting programs many employers use inhibit their ability to set their experience apart from others.  Veterans have been through some of the most difficult situations in the military, some they find very difficult to recount to explain their skills and experiences. They do not believe that employers are able to understand their work or context of it and want to be able to articulate their experience more fully.

More than anything, veterans want to be understood.  They know they have a great deal to offer the civilian employment world and are ready to take on the challenges inherent in the transition.  They are most stymied by their inability to make use of the processes in place for their career development and enact changes that would give them parity within the employment search systems used to compare them to those with whom they are competing against for employment.

Now let’s learn more about what the military experience is, in general. If you have no or limited exposure to American military culture, this will serve as a basic primer to give you scope and context for the rest of the material we will cover.

WATCH the video as I tell you more about the unique veteran experience.

READ: The Unique Population of Veterans

Answer items 13- 16 on your worksheet.

After learning some of the basics, this article will give you greater insight into the personal side as you learn more about the veteran population and what makes them unique and different from civilians.

READ A Legacy of Pain and Pride

Answer items 17-18 on your worksheet.

WATCH this brief video of a veteran discussing his perception of the difference between military and civilian life

Answer item 19 on your worksheet.

Next, WATCH this video about the 2010 deployment experience of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines in Sangin, Afghanistan.

WATCH this video to learn more about what a combat experience is like.

To learn more about deployment life aboard a Naval vessel, WATCH these next two videos. 


Answer questions 20-21 on your worksheet.

Military experiences are as varied as are the service members themselves, but they share some common experiences as they transition to civilian life and employment.

WATCH these brief videos of veterans describing their transition out of the military.

Unemployed Veterans Looking for Help

Overcoming Transition Challenges

For fun, read [31 Phrases That Only People In The Military Will Understand]

Finish this section by READING Veteran Experiences in Transition to learn more about the differences between military and civilian culture and how that impacts veteran transition. 

Answer questions 22-25 on your worksheet.

After you have finished the reading and watched the videos, be sure you have answered the items on your worksheet.  Then move on to Part 3.

Impacts to Veterans’ Success

The way in which service members manage their emotions in the military can have a great deal to do with their military experience.  There are many impacts to emotions that must be addressed throughout military service.  Being far away from home and loved ones for extended periods of time may bring significant sadness and heartbreak, particularly when deployments extend beyond the expected end date or the service member is away for holidays.  Missing family and friends can take a toll on the service members’ emotions.  At the same time they are engaged in situations where they must face daily stress performing their jobs and ensuring that those for whom they are responsible also do well in their work.  For some, doing well means seeking out and destroying enemy targets.  It also means protecting one another from harm so that all can return home safely.  To not do one’s job well may mean innocents are killed or a team member is left unprotected.  In order to survive and maintain control over their work service members are expected to manage their emotions while working and manage them appropriately when the time comes to deal with them.  The benefit to setting emotions aside was for the service member’s and the military’s overall work effectiveness.  Whether there is benefit to setting emotions aside in their transition is not yet understood.

Awareness that prospective employers are fearful of veterans makes them nervous about their interactions during networking events and interviews.  In part, veterans need to manage the emotions they feel about being feared along with the desire they feel to prove that employers should not be apprehensive about the veterans.  For some veterans the experience leads to anger and frustration; for others it brings about sadness and reluctance to engage wholeheartedly in the career development interaction.  In all cases there is a strong need by the veterans to keep their feelings under control as they learn and adjust to the new kinds of encounters taking place in career development.  Civilians with limited or no exposure to military veterans do not realize that the transition process is less about relinquishing the identity of warrior than it is finding a way to integrate that identity and accompanying behaviors and emotions with the new civilian self.  This process of veterans managing their emotions for their own self-care is emotional work.  It is under the control of the veterans and done for the protection of their state of mind so that they can be at their best while engaged in career development activities. 

Veterans know that they must put others at ease about their experiences and diffuse the fear they sense from prospective employers so they can engage successfully in the civilian employment search.  Doing so often results in the veterans saying little about their military work or minimizing the importance of it and the valuable skills they gained through the experiences.  Instead they draw little attention to their work and gloss over the skills that would likely make them desirable candidates.  It is their need to continue to protect others from the sometimes harsh realities of military service and details about combat that most speaks to the veterans’ emotion management.

WATCH this video as I share more with you about mental, emotional, and physical challenges that can potentially impact veterans’ success in career development.

The complex interplay between human emotions, military-related stress, and brain injury effects can create significant challenges for veterans in transition trying to prepare for civilian employment. Learn more about what these impacts look like by WATCHING the video below.

READ: Combat Stress vs. PTSD: How to Tell the Difference and About TBI .

Answer questions 26-30 on your worksheet.

You can imagine how challenging it could be to navigate the job search process or work environment while experiencing the impacts of combat stress or brain injury in addition to the isolation of transition.

WATCH this video as a veteran describes his experience.

READ Mental Health to learn about some veterans’ experiences navigating their career development and job search while knowing they are misunderstood.

New research is focusing on the emotional and spiritual connection as part of understanding PTSD. Termed moral injury, this concept is gaining recognition as a way to describe the deeper hurt many veterans experience.

Answer questions 31-33 on your worksheet.

READ ‘Moral Injury’ Takes Toll on Veterans.

LISTEN to the recording Veteran Moral Injury – The Psychological Wounds of War (35 minutes) to learn more about how this concept is putting a name to veterans’ feelings.

Answer question 34-36 on your worksheet.

After you have finished the reading and watched the videos, be sure you have answered the items on your worksheet.  Then move on to Part 4.

Strategies for Career Advising for Veterans

Veterans recommend that those responsible for career development at institutions of higher education reach out to veterans as they enter higher education to help them begin thinking about career transition.  They suggest that, because veterans do not seek assistance unless absolutely necessary, school representatives contact them preemptively so that they are aware of the resources available and how to access them.  They also suggest that the career development staff receive special training on how to assist veterans with résumé development and interview preparation because they are likely unfamiliar with the nuances of military work.  Special understanding is needed regarding how military work might be best displayed on the résumé and in interview situations.

Veterans say it is important for those educating, advising, and supporting them to do so in a sensitive and competent manner.  Military cultural competency training for those teaching and supporting veterans in higher education would provide the foundation for an educated dialog about the financial and experience benefits that veterans bring to employers as well as informed discussion regarding addressing veterans’ needs in higher education.  In addition to the technical training needed for career services staff to assist with veterans’ résumés and interview preparation, military cultural competency training for career services staff would give them the sensitivity and language to engage effective discussion with veterans about their career development needs.

If veterans are to be hired within systems that account for their military experience and make use of the skills and talents they have to offer so they will be sustainably employed, employers must engage training on military cultural competency for the entire organization, particularly for those responsible for leadership in human resources, career development, and hiring activities.  Those responsible for hiring need to learn how to effectively evaluate military work experience and ask respectful probing questions in interviews to gather adequate information needed to make a hiring decision about a veteran.  Additionally, they need to understand that the work done in the military is separate from the individuals doing it and be able to manage their responses so they do not display fear or other off-putting emotions to veterans conducting a civilian employment search.  Military cultural competency training should also discuss the general value of employing veterans beyond the tax credits and public perception.

Veterans recommend that employers consider implementing affinity groups for veterans within their organizations.  Much like their experiences in higher education, the bonds of military service extend beyond service branch once veterans enter the civilian world.  In addition to easing their transition into large organizations, providing mentorship for other veterans, and serving in advocacy roles, veterans believe that affinity groups could provide a valuable source of knowledge for other employees as well.  This concept is supported by research indicating that strong relationships with others, particularly similar others, could aid veterans’ resilience, socialization, and adaptation.

Veterans want to be challenged in their work and given responsibility for tasks that will allow them to make strong contributions to the organization.  As part of their development of new professional power, veterans should be allowed the opportunity to utilize the skills they developed through their military work.  Effective leadership, decision making, and communication are all part of a veteran’s past military work and should be utilized as assets to benefit the organization even at the entry level of technical skills.  Employers who make use of these skills will support the veterans’ adaptation and acquiring new tools.  Additionally, the confidence gained through using their strengths will likely help build the veterans’ professional power and increase their agency.

WATCH the video below as I share some information, strategies and helpful hints for working with veterans on their career development.

Answer questions 37-38 on your worksheet.

READ more about some of the challenges veterans encounter as they engage in the job search process like cultural understanding Using Cultural Guides to Bridge the Veterans’ Employment Gap, skill competitiveness When Veterans Enter the Job Market – Article and marketplace reluctance Thank You For Your Military Service — Now Here Are 9 Reasons Why I Won’t Hire You

Answer question 39-43 on your worksheet.

WATCH these next three short videos. In these videos, veterans talk about finding employment and some of the roadblocks in the career development and job search process. 

Answer question 44 on your worksheet.

Answer question 45 on your worksheet.

Answer question 46 on your worksheet.

Next, let’s look at some effective tips you can give veterans in career development.

WATCH these next three videos to get some great tips for helping veterans with their employment.

Answer question 47 on your worksheet.

Answer question 48 on your worksheet.

Answer question 49 on your worksheet.

After you have finished the readings and watched the videos, be sure you have answered the items on your worksheet.  Then move on to Part 5.

 Veterans’ Career Development Challenges

Veterans of the last decade of wars are unemployed at a rate consistently high enough that those of us in the career development sphere should be concerned.  Recent data from the Department of Labor puts the level at 9.2% unemployment for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.  Given the continued economic recession, unemployment across all sectors of the population is not unexpected, but the rate for veterans has maintained a higher level than for their civilian counterparts for as long as the United States has been involved in the current wars.  That it has continued for so long without significant efforts to identify the reasons behind it or create meaningful change to combat it is cause for concern.

I have worked with veterans in higher education for eight years starting as a career advisor, continuing as a veteran center director, and now as a consultant and coach.  In that time I have learned that, while veterans overall share some common characteristics, they are as diverse as any traditional student population in higher education, each with unique capabilities and challenges.  Not all veterans have PTSD.  Most veterans are willing to talk about their military experience once they establish trust with the listener.  Few veterans will ask for help.

What I have found through research is that their experiences are as diverse as veterans themselves, and we have vastly underestimated their knowledge of and thoughtfulness about their experiences.  With this understanding of veterans’ career development, career development practitioners will be better able to employ effective strategies to meet veterans’ needs.  Much as the WWII veterans brought ready skill and capability to higher education, the current generation of veterans has demonstrated their adaptability and leadership in service as well as drive to make a new contribution by undertaking higher education.  The lessons to be learned have the potential to change the way in which veterans are perceived by career development staff and prepared for their new missions in civilian employment.

Based on recommendations from veterans, the following are key practices that should be implemented to foster veterans’ career success.

  • Early Career Services Outreach – Because veterans do not seek assistance unless necessary, school representatives should contact those interested in higher education and further training preemptively so they are aware of resources available in their programs and how to access services.
  • Career Services Staff Training – Implement career development staff training on how to assist veterans with résumé development and interview preparation because staff are likely unfamiliar with the nuances of military work.
  • Military Cultural Competency Training – Implement military cultural competency training organization-wide, particularly for those responsible for teaching and advising activities to learn how to effectively educate and make thoughtful referrals of veterans to supportive resources.
  • Organizational Support – Implement veteran affinity groups to ease veteran transition into large organizations, provide mentorship, and serve in advocacy role to provide knowledge for others.
  • Utilize Skills and Experience – Give responsibility for tasks that will allow veterans to make strong contributions to the organization and allow the opportunity to utilize skills developed through military work.

Next, let’s think about how to use career advising strategies to support veterans’ career development.

READ Veterans New Battle.

Answer questions 50-54 on your worksheet.

Here are some great tips to help you help veterans navigate the civilian job search landscape.

READ Challenges to Transition.

WATCH the video below to hear some great tips from the Office of Personnel Management.

Answer questions 55-56 on your worksheet.

For those veterans interested in further education or training, the roadblock of not receiving academic credit for prior experience and/or education may be enough to turn them back.

READ The Key to Helping Veterans Thrive in the Civilian Job Market and WATCH the video.

Answer question 57 on your worksheet.

Summary and Conclusion

Veterans are a unique and capable population who are ready to make a strong contribution to the civilian employment sector. This course was designed to teach you, a career development professional, the basic skills and competencies for working with veterans in career development. You should now be prepared to provide informed and sensitive advising and support to help veterans overcome roadblocks to find employment success.

WATCH this short video to hear a concluding message from your instructor.

Thank you for participating in this course. I hope you have learned new information and new strategies you can utilize when working with veterans. Thank you for supporting veterans’ career development! 

Please send your completed worksheet to Sarah Minnis for review.  Once it is determined that your worksheet is complete, you will receive your certificate of completion with the appropriate clock hours. 

Please also complete the evaluation which is an NBCC requirement. CLICK ON THE BUTTON to access the evaluation.



Thank you for participating in this online course and for your support of CEUonestop. Please check out our other courses and our workshops and webinars.