The current job boom has brought new opportunities to job seekers everywhere — including jobs for veterans, who have a lower unemployment rate than the general population. But despite this trend, many veterans still struggle when it’s time to transition from the military to the civilian workforce, facing challenges such as translating military terminology on their resume, building professional connections and navigating the onboarding process.
We talked to four veterans — Solomon Rhima, Keri Garrison, Kristina Flores and Mario Carpanzano — who work at Indeed to learn how veterans offer important, in-demand skills every company wants. This group also shares the biggest challenges they encountered when entering the civilian workforce and offers a roadmap for companies looking to recruit veterans.
Solomon Rhima: The power of networking and perseverance
Solomon Rhima believes in lifelong learning and development. This philosophy led him to join the Marines Corps Reserve, where he volunteered for a year-long deployment overseas while also attending Texas State University.
“I was the youngest of eight, but the first to go to college,” Rhima says. “I wanted to challenge myself ... and give myself as much life experience as possible.”
When he graduated with a degree in criminal justice — along with logistics and supply chain management experience from the military — he was excited to embark on his civilian career.
However, Rhima says, “I quickly learned the lesson that a lot of employers … don’t recognize the impact of the work you did in the military.”
Despite expanding his search to broader fields and sending out rounds of applications, he got no response. Another potential setback came when Rhima’s mother grew ill — but even this proved an opportunity to learn. To help his parents, Rhima spent a year running the family’s small business. In his spare time, he read everything he could about civilian jobs for veterans.
When Rhima resumed his job search, armed with new research and skills, he turned to Indeed to learn about employers in his area that might be a good fit. He also threw himself into networking: starting with military associations and veterans’ groups, and from there, building connections in the civilian job sector.
“Identifying what I should apply for and getting my resume in front of [the right person] … was the toughest piece,” Rhima recalls. “Once I felt I had connections, and they were able to point me in the right direction, I started reapplying to the positions with more of a focus.”
With the help of his network, the Indeed platform and knowledge gained along the way, Rhima found his current job at Indeed, where he has worked since March 2019.
Keri Garrison: A passion for helping veterans get jobs
Keri Garrison started her military career on an Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship at Texas State University. She was on active duty for almost five years, then served in the Texas Army National Guard before transitioning out completely at the rank of captain.
Garrison has a unique perspective on the transition to civilian work: Not only did she work in the army’s human resources division, but her first job after the service was as a recruiter for a military recruiting firm.
Garrison realized her passion for helping veterans find jobs during her own career transition, experiencing firsthand the difference using the recruiting firm made. They took the guesswork out of the process, translating her military training into potential civilian roles.
However, she found the interview process itself to be stressful, and notes that interviews are one of the biggest challenges for veterans.
“A lot of veterans might have interviewed for Taco Bell when they were in high school, but then joined the military,” she says. “To interview at the level that they're interviewing post-military — the hiring processes is much different.”
When Garrison was ready for a change after more than six years with the recruiting firm, Indeed was a logical next employer; the company offered relevant work and a platform she loved using. Garrison began her current job as a technical recruiter in February 2019.
While she doesn’t focus specifically on veteran recruitment in her role, Garrison remains passionate about supporting this group: “I am very familiar with the challenges veterans face coming out of the military, and have been really trying to be involved [with that] here at Indeed,” she says.
Kristina Flores: The power of transferable skills
Kristina Flores knew she wanted to join the military for its unique opportunities. After high school, she enlisted in the Air Force and became a database maintenance analyst, identifying trends and inconsistencies in aircraft data. She’s also a nationally registered EMT, and continues her service to this day as a medic in the Air National Guard.
After six years of active duty, including two deployments abroad, Flores was ready to pursue her interest in an IT career. Her then-supervisor helped her transition to the San Antonio military reserve, where she started looking for work.
Flores knew her resume was her biggest weakness; although her skills related directly to her career goals, she faced the common problem of how to translate them into civilian terms. She enlisted a family friend for help; with her revamped resume, she was soon offered a position as a systems analyst for a tech company.
Knowing the obstacles job-seeking veterans face, Garrison describes this transition as unusually smooth.
“Because I did so much database analysis in the Air Force, it transitioned over pretty well into the civilian world,” Flores says. Nonetheless, she compares her first role to being “thrown in the fire,” since it forced her to jump into new projects and environments.
While Flores rose to the challenge and loved being part of a team, she ultimately needed a position with better work-life balance to allow her to serve in the Air National Guard. She began applying for new opportunities on the Indeed platform, and found her current role at the company itself. Flores’ military skills were a perfect fit for this position, where she helps ensure best practices for data storage and usage.
Mario Carpanzano: Putting family first after years of service
A lifelong athlete who thrives in team environments, Mario Carpanzano joined the military in search of collaboration and camaraderie. In fact, he and his wife both enlisted after graduating college.
“I wanted to do something more than myself,” he explains. “It just felt like a natural progression.”
Carpanzano’s college degree instantly landed him a leadership position. As a Military Police officer, he was in charge of a platoon of 35 other officers — and since he and his wife were stationed in Alaska, he was forced to lead the team under extreme weather conditions. This taught Carpanzano lifelong lessons in leadership and organization: anticipate the unexpected, and always stay two steps ahead.
After having children and serving 12 years in the Army — including being deployed abroad at different times and stationed together at various U.S. bases — Carpanzano and his wife decided they needed careers with better work-life balance.
“We came to the decision together that our kids [were] more important,” says Carpanzano, even though leaving the military was “the scariest thing in the world. … When you do multiple duty stations and multiple tours, it ... becomes your life.”
Carpanzano didn’t know what he wanted to do next and was worried he would struggle to find a good fit. However, he quickly found a civilian position, thanks to a friend at the Indeed office in Stamford, Connecticut who spotted an opening leading the company’s security for the Americas.
The similarities between his current role and what he did in the army helped him get the job, and he’s been at Indeed since late 2018; however, he notes this quick transition is “the exception to the norm” for veterans.
Tips for employers: How to recruit veterans
So how can employers tap into this uniquely skilled talent base? Our vets suggest following two tips:
- Focus on soft, transferable skills
While many veterans learn specialized technical skills during their service, it’s their soft skills employers should look to, as these are highly transferable to a range of civilian positions. Each veteran we profiled speaks to the versatility of skills such as communication, organization, leadership, efficiency and juggling multiple jobs at once.
“As a military officer, you’re very used to briefing generals and getting up in front of a group,” Garrison explains. “At the same time, you have a lot of moving pieces and a lot of things going on all at one time that you're responsible for.”
Veterans also excel at working under pressure, since this is part of military life. Flores credits her military service for her ability to adapt to stressful situations, which helped her get her work done and find solutions in her first civilian job.
Carpanzano highlights the importance of leadership skills, which are useful in many positions. Many veterans excel at managing people, projects and equipment, he says — so employers should give candidates an opportunity to delve into these aspects of their past roles.
Rhima highlights veterans’ adaptability as one of their biggest strengths: “Their overall experience doing multiple jobs at all times would allow them to be a very flexible candidate for more than just one position in their organization.”
- Translate military experience into civilian roles
Sometimes civilian recruiters simply don’t know how or where to place veterans. While there may not be a direct equivalent between a veteran’s background and the job they’re applying for, our group says employers should look broadly at how military skills translate to other roles at the company.
“[Candidates] don't necessarily need to know the exact job that they're going into,” says Flores. “Vets ... are able to be able to transition pretty easily once they're given support and guidance.” Creating an employee interest group for veterans can help offer this, while also raising awareness internally.
In his early job search, Rhima struggled “to translate all my military skills, in verbiage, to civilian-speak.” He suggests that companies enlist veteran employees to help them read resumes and help recruiters understand how a job seeker’s military training might fit a given role.
Garrison says it’s important for companies to educate hiring managers. When a stellar veteran candidate doesn’t even get a phone call, she assumes it’s because the recruiter didn’t see how military skills and experience translated for the position — but this problem can be alleviated with training.
“The biggest challenge is military resumes being passed over, and them not even getting an actual call,” Garrison explains. “What I have found is when you put a veteran in the seat in front of a hiring manager, they typically do really well, but it's just getting them to the interview process.”
With a few small changes, companies can help our former service people start a new life — while tapping into a strong and versatile talent pool.
If you’re an employer seeking more information to guide your veteran hiring strategy, visit the Indeed for Veterans employer resource hub.