The wounds of Veterans, both physical and mental, are real and have widespread effects on Veterans and their families. I applaud the efforts of the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as private entities to help these men and women, and their families, on the long road to recovery. Not a day passes that I’m ungrateful for my health after four years in the Navy.
With that being said, I believe Veterans are a proud breed of Americans. We don’t like hearing “it can’t be done” or “that’s just not possible”. With limited resources, personnel, or funding, we were trained to make things happen. And we did. This instilled a certain pride in us that we can and will achieve the so called “impossible.”
It bothers me when I see the staggering statistics about unemployment among my fellow Veterans. There are a plethora of factors that contribute to this, but it’s difficult to pinpoint the root cause. Some cite the inability for employers to recognize how work experience in the military transfers to the civilian world. Some say employers are worried about the mental health of Veterans. Roughly seven percent of Americans are Veterans, and less than one percent are currently serving. With this kind of data, it’s understandable why employers can’t relate.
The concern employers express over the mental health of a veteran is nothing more than a social stigma. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a very serious issue, and Veterans who are suffering should not feel shame in seeking counseling. While PTSD is nothing new to Veterans, the publicity it’s received in the last decade has propelled the word to be synonymous with Veteran. This is an unfortunate and untrue association of words. The number of Veterans that I know who are healthy, motivated and intelligent individuals far supersedes the amount of Vets I know with PTSD.
The skills Veterans learn through military training can give us a significant advantage in many professions. We embody the idea of teamwork, motivation and problem solving. I think it’s absolutely astonishing that employers would rather hire a college graduate with little experience over a Veteran who has real-world experience.
This is where Veterans have an opportunity to change things. Leadership, troubleshooting and organization, all gained from the military, are key attributes to successful entrepreneurial endeavors. Veterans who are creating jobs have a unique ability to recognize the talent of other veterans, and employ them. The employment of veterans puts some of our hardest working, brightest and most talented Americans back in the workplace, where they’re truly appreciated.
Entrepreneurial initiatives in the U.S. are vital to job creation and economic stimulation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, from 1980 to 2005, firms less than five years old created all net job growth in the U.S. Another interesting fact: more than half of the companies on the Fortune 500 list in 2009 were launched during a bear market or recession. This includes companies like Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Adobe, Johnson & Johnson and Kraft, to name a few.
Veterans have access to a one of a kind program, which will help guide them through the creation and development of a business. Veteran Entrepreneur Transfer Inc., a Milwaukee-based business accelerator, provides assistance to veterans wishing to start a business through the use of mentoring and training. VETransfer also provides guidance in the planning, testing and implementation of a product or service to a veteran. This is a great program for Veterans, both locally and nationally, who aspire to be their own boss.
The military lifestyle is undoubtedly a contributing factor to the success of Veteran owned businesses. Vets are 45 percent more likely to start a business than non-veterans. Veteran-owned businesses account for about 9 percent of all small businesses and they grossed $1.2 trillion in profit in 2007.
The resources required to help are available, and hiring yourself to fulfill your dream job can be accomplished. Put the skills acquired during your time in the military to use by running your own business.
Chris Lang, a U.S. Navy Veteran, is the assistant communication manger at Veteran Entrepreneurial Transfer, a non-profit business accelerator for Veterans.