Hardships Women Veterans Face When Transitioning into the Civilian Workforce
There’s a shift taking place in the military veteran population. According to Women Veterans Health Care, women make up 8% of all U.S. veterans, making this group the fastest growing demographic within the U.S. veteran population. The VA projects that by the year 2045, the share of female veterans will double to 18%. Additionally, the number of women veterans is projected to increase, from 1.9 million to 2.2 million, while the share of male veterans is projected to drop.
Unfortunately, women veterans face many challenges while transitioning back to civilian life and the workforce. Because the team at Empire Resume understands these hardships, we are here to help.
Eye Openers from the Words of Recent Women Veterans
The Military Times indicates that more than 30,000 women leave the military every year. And every year, each of these women veterans face their own unique challenges when they get back to civilian life.
Outside of their military titles, some of the women are in relationships and some are not. Some of them are mothers and wives like Amanda Huffman, a blogger who says she traded her Air Force combat boots for a diaper bag. “The military pushes service members back into civilian life without regard for their feelings,” Huffman said in an episode of her podcast, Women of the Military.
Because of the strong push back to civilian life, women also struggle with rekindling relationships once they return home. “The military shows women how to be strong,” said Sha’Keia Kegler, a Navy Veteran who helps businesses sell to the government through her company, GovLia . During her transition back into civilian life, she struggled with nurturing relationships.
Kegler admitted that this is something she had to learn to cope with. “Getting to learn someone over again is daunting because you and the other person live in two different worlds,” she said in an episode of Women of the Military.
The Transition of the Woman Veteran Portrayed on Television
Now, we’re finally starting to see a dose of reality for women veterans on television. This season, This Is Us recently introduced a new character – a woman veteran named Cassidy. In the beginning, we see her interacting with her husband and son through video chat while she’s away on duty in the Middle East.
Eventually, we also see some of her military experience and get a glimpse of her transition back to civilian life. To make a long story short, her husband and son begin to feel alienated. Meanwhile, she’s expected to pick up where she left off and be the same person she was prior to leaving for duty.
Cassidy struggles with the adjustment. She has a hard time finding work upon her return home and everyone else seems to move about life as normal, while she’s still questioning what’s happening in the Middle East. To cope, Cassidy resorts to alcohol and ultimately lashes out on her son. This results in Cassidy joining a veteran’s support group.
Stereotypes of Women Veterans in the Workplace
The challenges women face are happening in the U.S. as well as the U.K., according to a report by BDaily News. Women in each country face similar barriers to employment, more so than their male counterparts. One of those barriers is the stereotypes of veterans.
According to Meaghan Mobbs’ article, “What You Think About Veterans is Likely Wrong,” in Psychology Today, the average American has an inaccurate understanding of the veteran experience. Many civilians associate mental health conditions and PTSD with military veterans.
For instance, a survey found that 40% of civilians believe that post-9/11 veterans suffer from a mental health condition. This is an unfortunate myth as all veterans do not have PTSD or some sort of mental-health condition.
In fact, one in five service members who return from deployment have symptoms of PTSD, according to the VA’s Supporting Veterans in the Workplace website. However, mental health conditions and PTSD happens to people in the civilian world too.
Unemployment Rates are High Among Women Veterans
As indicated in an article by Veterans Assembled Electronics, post-9/11 women veterans have higher unemployment rates than male veterans and civilian women. And here’s one reason why:
Civilians are intimated by a woman veteran’s leadership abilities.
“A woman veteran’s strong leadership skills are intimidating and civilians don’t like it,” said Dawn Fitzgerald in Military Times. Experts say that since the military encourages a direct style of communication that civilian workplaces don’t understand, women are charged a higher social penalty than men.
When a woman is strong and assertive in the workplace, they are labeled a female dog, GI Jane, or even Sergeant Jane Doe. But when men carry those same qualities, they are referred to as leaders.
If you’d like more statistics about women veterans, review the Department of Labor’s Women Veteran Fact Sheet. On top of these stereotypes and other challenges, the gender pay gap is another hurdle for women veteran to cross.
The Gender Pay Gap Contributes to the Struggle of Women Veterans
Although career transitions are difficult for the male veteran job finder, women veterans also deal with the gender pay gap, like their civilian counterparts.
According to the VA, women are more likely than men to be concentrated into low-paying positions, earn minimum wage, and even experience poverty. Research shows that many women veterans are homeless.
Jodie M. Grenier, a Marine Veteran, can attest to the concentrating of low-paying positions. She went from having a top security clearance, while working on a team of intel analysts who reported to General Jim Mattis (now retired), to waiting tables. “I had a very purpose-driven job, and when I got out, I went to community college and waited tables,” she said in Military Times.
Not only is the gender pay gap a problem that contributes to the woman veteran’s struggle, the fact that women veterans are overlooked in society as a whole is a huge, isolating issue. A veteran is a veteran, whether the veteran is a man or woman.
The small number of women veterans makes it difficult to connect with one other. “Just finding each other after service is a challenge because there are fewer women than men who serve,” said Tara Galovski, in an interview with The New York Times Magazine.
Use the Military to Civilian Resume to Overcome Stereotypes in the Workforce
The team at Empire Resume wants you to know that all veterans make great employees. Your military experience and any relevant positive traits, strengths, and achievements that will translate into the civilian world is what will make your resume shine while also showing that you’re a great employee.
Your military to civilian resume is an informative summary of your achievements , background, employment, experiences, and education. The resume is essentially a marketing tool that makes it easy for you to get noticed by hiring managers.
At the end of the day, you can overcome your potential employer’s stereotypes with your military to civilian resume by showing your value.
Understanding your value will help you knock down the wall of stereotypes your potential employer may have built around you. Ask yourself, “What value do I bring to the table?”
Once you’re aware of your own value, identify your achievements by asking:
- Did I consistently meet or exceed a target?
- Did I receive recognition for outstanding performance?
- How did I increase efficiency?
- How did my actions and contributions benefit my unit or team?
When you’re aware of your value, you can identify achievements. Your achievements are important because they show how you make an impact. Your achievements set you apart from the competition.
Why is this the case?
Because you’ve clearly identified key elements of impact within your resume, whereas another candidate simply showed that he or she executed or implemented a task, with no idea of how their value really impacts a company.
For more information on building an awesome resume, review our article on Military to Civilian Resumes.
Making an All-Star LinkedIn to Showcase Your Value
LinkedIn, as you know, is the world’s largest professional social networking site. You can use this site to showcase your value, be marketable to employers, and chart your own career path.
As we mentioned in our article Creating a Veteran LinkedIn, more than 30 million companies are represented on LinkedIn and top recruiters are 60% more engaged on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to act as a point woman to introduce you to potential employers and offer a virtual handshake. Additionally, LinkedIn is your wing woman in supporting your career efforts.
Below you’ll find a few tips on making your all-star LinkedIn profile to showcase your value:
- Profile photo
People will notice your photo first. We recommend women veterans to use a civilian photo in order to prevent potential employers from stereotyping you and labeling you something other than who you truly are.
The photo should be current and professional. Please, stay away from the selfies and vacation photos.
Your headline is key. This is what helps recruiters locate you when performing Google searches and searches on LinkedIn. The headline works much like your resume title, although you’re under no obligation to use a normal job title.
For example, instead of writing Teacher, for keyword purposes, try Middle School Special Education Teacher.
Your summary should reflect your experience in 2,000 characters. This is the first impression, besides your photo, that recruiters will see. And, it’s highly likely that a recruiter will read what you’ve written here.
Make sure you take a considerable amount of time to write a gleaming summary. You want it to be easy to read and functional on mobile devices as well.
We recommend you use first-person, where you refer to yourself as “I”, to make it more personal. If you need more help here, please review our article on how to create a LinkedIn summary.
Simply plug in your experience related information from your military to civilian resume. When you do this, you create consistency between these two sources.
Maintaining consistency keeps from confusing hiring managers and other people who want to work with you. Discrepancies in these sources are red flags for potential employers.
Women veterans are taking advantage of their educational benefits more so than men. Therefore, your education should also be listed on LinkedIn.
Listing your education and the school you went to provides the opportunity to connect with other alumni and potential military veteran alumni, that may be working in fields you’re interested in.
If your graduation dates are more than 15 years, be sure to leave these off your profile to prevent age discrimination.
We’ve just covered the most important areas where you can show your value on LinkedIn. However, LinkedIn allows you to add other areas of value that apply to you. If licenses and certifications, volunteer experience, and honors and awards apply to you, be sure to list them on your LinkedIn profile.
It is important to note that once you’ve completed your LinkedIn profile, be sure to customize your URL. LinkedIn will assign a lengthy URL such as linkedin.com/pub/user123456. Make your URL simple and memorable by changing the URL to your name. This provides easy access to your profile just in case someone wants to locate you on LinkedIn.
Resources for Women Veterans
We couldn’t end this article without leaving you with some helpful resources and enlightening words as you continue your transition back into the civilian world and adjust to life outside of uniform.
Women veterans are encouraged to take some time to dig deep and do some self-reflection and introspection to discover your new self and your new life outside of the military. Do this by asking yourself these questions:
- Who am I, now?
- What are my current goals and dreams?
- What brings me happiness right now?
- What matters the most to me, right now?
- What is one thing I value about myself?
- What do I want most in life?
Look at the situation with a silver lining. Now, you can make your own rules and march to your own cadence. Set your own routine and do what’s best for you. This is your time to do whatever it is that you want to do.
The VA even recommends women veterans to give mindfulness a try. Mindfulness allows you to be present in the moment and not rehash the past or not rehearse the future.
Below are a few more sources of help for you and other women veterans transitioning to life outside of the military:
- Women Veterans Network
- Women Veterans Health Care
- Women of the Military Book
- Center for Women Veterans
- Empire Resume
- Task and Purpose Blog
- National Veterans Federation
Nothing can take away from the sacrifices you’ve made for this country. Be proud of your contributions, your accomplishments, and wear the badge of the woman veteran with honor. Just remember to take your time with readjusting, make sure your needs are being met first, and live life on your own terms.
When you’ve completed the work to look within and discover your new self and fresh outlook on life, you’ll be ready to bring that person and her strong leadership skills to the civilian workforce. Surprisingly, what you may find is that you’re exactly what’s needed out here.
Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for service-members transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.