No one wants to be numbered among the unemployed or underemployed, and while the national unemployment figure tells a positive story, it’s not the whole story.
Take youth unemployment, the jobless rate for people aged 15 to 24, it hovers at around 12.5 percent, more than double the national rate, which sucks if you’re young and if you’re a parent…
For veterans, the men and women who have served in Australia’s Armed Forces and who are making the move back to civilian life and the workforce, the estimated unemployment figure is around eight percent and yet a recent LinkedIn Veteran’s Skills Data Set, conducted in conjunction with Westpac, identified 12 key skills common among ex-defence personnel that are highly desirable in the business world.
Rachel Ranton, who is currently employed as an Inclusion and Diversity Consultant for Westpac Group, served for 11 years in the Australian Army as an Electronic Warfare Operator (see above photo) and is in the unique position to comment on where the pitfalls can be for both veterans - and employers - when it comes to the process of successfully making the transition to the civilian workforce.
By the time she turned 30 years old, Rachel had spent more than a decade intercepting and analysing enemy communications, providing advice and warning to commanders on the battlefield, supporting frontline assets and briefing field commanders in volatile situations. After she left the Army in 2008, she worked at St. George Bank, firstly as a Branch Manager. She then went on to be an Area Manager, leading a team of 13 branches in Queensland. This year, she was named in the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Awards as Veterans’ Employee of the Year.
Supporting veterans to understand what it is they offer civilian employers, and, in turn, helping employers understand what they may be missing out on in highly skilled veterans, provides Rachel with the purpose she needs at work.
“I learned a range of skills in service, but the one skill that comes to mind most quickly is determination – the military really teaches you how to give your all. I draw on that determination and problem solving to meet challenges all the time. Most of the veterans I know would have the same highly developed skill but may struggle to explain it and its relevance in the civilian workforce,” says Rachel.
The military also taught Rachel to work in changing and volatile environments; to project manage, lead, communicate and negotiate. Again, she believes, the key to success for any veteran in transition is being able to unpack, identify and successfully communicate their skills to potential employers.
“A veteran, for example, wouldn’t talk in terms of project management,” Rachel explains. “They would say ‘we go on exercise’, but the skills and actions involved in this activity are the same as managing a project,” she says.
Another important point for veterans and employers to work through is the importance of “sense of purpose”.
“When I left the Army for my new job,” says Rachel, “I soon began to realise I would probably never do anything as important as my Army role again in my life… and I was 28 years old.
“For veterans entering their next role finding that sense of purpose can be very hard and they need to work through that issue,” says Rachel.
“There is a lot of soul searching to identify from where that purpose may come. For employers they need to understand that if the civilian role does not offer the individual that purpose they will or maybe they already are fulfilling it elsewhere in the community, in volunteering. Both parties need to be aware of what is going on in this dynamic for the transition to be simple. I am not sure employers are aware of that sense of purpose and how veterans need that,” says Rachel.
Of course, many of the people leaving defence are looking for something different, a change in their lives. Negotiating that change is not easy.
To enhance and promote better outcomes for veterans, Rachel believes programs such as Westpac’s, in which veterans and their partners receive support throughout the hiring and on-boarding process, make for greater success. Once in the organisation, support from other like-minded people is also important for continued career success.