They Served Us; Now it's Our Turn to Serve Them


Adam​ Bolenbaugh - Veteran struggled with transitioning to civilian workforce

Adam Bolenbaugh had the skills and experience, but still struggled to land a job.

The Navy veteran spent about 14 years as a military personnel specialist, a role that is comparable to a human resources position in the civilian sector.

Nearly one-third of veteran job seekers like Adam are underemployed, according to a Call of Duty Endowment report. Although the military employs people in all professional fields at every possible career level, key findings from the report show that veterans are still an undervalued talent pool in today's workforce. Six million veterans, like Adam, are work eligible. Yet, a Call of Duty Endowment and ZipRecruiter study shows that 33 percent of veterans are underemployed. It also says that veterans are 15.6 percent more likely to be underemployed than nonveterans.

A LinkedIn report about veteran opportunities also points to a divide between the military and civilian sectors. There's a gap in understanding and knowledge between the two when it comes to employment. When people managers told Adam he needed a human resources (HR) degree for the jobs that he applied for, he went back to college to earn one. It still didn't seem to be enough to convince employers to hire him.

That's why the SHRM Foundation's Veterans at Work initiative is so important. It includes a certificate program, which is a free 10-hour, self-paced course, developed by HR professionals, people managers and front-line supervisors to teach best practices to attract, hire and retain veterans and members of the military community. It helps people managers and those with hiring influence see the value that veterans like Adam can bring to their companies.

Rick Silva led a team of military career counselors before he retired from the Army. With about 20 years of experience in military recruiting and career development under his belt, his civilian job search began with high hopes. Rick says he probably applied to about 70 jobs, which only drew about four phone inquiries and one interview.

"There's a perception that companies want veterans, but once you're out there, it seems like the opposite," he says. "I think the jobs I did [in the (Army) had a high level of transferability, but it's hard to get in front of people."

Veterans advocates say that articulating experiences and achievements can be challenging for veterans because civilian people managers aren't familiar with military job titles and acronyms. Monique Jenkins, an internal consultant to HR leaders and their teams for the state of Georgia, also says some people managers tell her they want to hire veterans. They know it's the right thing to do, and it helps meet their diversity and inclusion efforts. Yet, when it comes to recruiting and hiring veterans, they just don't know where to start.

 "The Veterans at Work (certificate) program lays out the framework for them and gives them step-by-step instructions on what they should think about first, the benefits of hiring veterans and provides some background and information for them to build an internal business case before they embark on hiring veterans," she says.

Monique has earned a Veterans at Work Certificate and often promotes the program at HR conferences. Both Adam and Rick are now employed in HR roles. Adam is a talent acquisition specialist at Del-Air, a heating, air conditioning and appliances company near Orlando, Florida. Rick is a recruiting manager for Interim Healthcare in Greenville, South Carolina. Both say that those who hired them had some exposure to, or experience with, veterans. Rick recently completed the Veterans at Work certificate program so that he can better help his HR colleagues see the benefits of recruiting and hiring veterans and members of the military community.

 "The more you educate people outside the military circle, the better," Rick says.

 Adam's boss, Crystal Palacios is the director of human resources at Del-Air. She's a former military spouse and has a son serving in the Navy. She says veterans enter the civilian workforce with transferable skills that are beneficial to companies.

 "There's a sense of leadership, ownership, dedication and commitment that I think service members learn early on in basic training and throughout their military career, no matter how short or long," Crystal says. "We know that achieving excellence is a matter of importance and that doing things right the first time is important. Ownership and accountability are things that are instilled in military service members. We know that there is an opportunity to benefit from those skills."

Adam says veterans just want opportunities and the chance to prove themselves in the civilian sector. He says veterans are also dedicated to their jobs and value honor, courage and commitment.

 "You're very dependable and reliable," he says. "Your all-around work ethic is very strong because that's what you're taught in the military."

 The SHRM Foundation and the veterans it serves needs your help. The foundation believes that veterans and members of the military community are valuable members of our workforce, and this initiative will help HR professionals attract, hire and retain members of the military community. The Veterans at Work Initiative helps put these American heroes to work. 

 You can show your support by making a donation to the Veterans at Work program today. For information or to donate, go to



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