Researchers find vets leave civilian jobs quickly, but for good reasons

Nearly half of veterans leave their first civilian job within a year, but that may not be bad news, according to a new analysis by the Center for a New American Security.

Researchers from the think tank’s Military, Veterans, and Society program found that turnover rate is comparable to civilians getting their first full-time job, and is usually the veterans’ choice.

“Most of these veterans leave their jobs for positive reasons, such as a move for more money, more responsibility or a better location,” the report states. “A minority of veterans leave jobs for negative reasons, such as clashes with management or performance issues. However, there are no indications that veterans leave for negative reasons relating to their veteran status.”

The study refutes assumptions that the high turnover rate — almost half, according to previous surveys — is a result of veterans inability to integrate into civilian posts or pervasive discrimination against them.

But researchers did find that underemployment remains a problem for servicemembers entering the civilian workforce, with 60 percent of veterans surveyed saying their experience and skills significantly outpace their job responsibilities.

“Among all veterans, former enlisted personnel felt more undervalued and underutilized than former officers,” the report states. “(They) were more likely than officers to claim that their manager did not value their experience as a veteran … and (more) cited a “skill or experience mismatch” as a reason for leaving a job.”

The report is based on three separate CNAS surveys of nearly 1,800 veterans, managers and recruiting professionals, and analysis of existing corporate data and related employment reports.  

In a separate study, researchers with the business management firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young) surveyed 1,000 veterans working in civilian jobs and found 82 percent think that their military experience gives them an advantage in the workplace, in areas like teamwork and work ethic.

But that military experience also comes with disadvantages. Researchers said almost half said their service left them ill-prepared to negotiate pay increases or promotions.

CNAS researchers said while their findings refute the idea of widespread problems of veterans entering the civilian workforce, they also show a small subset who do struggle with the transition, pointing to the need for continued education of hiring managers and supervisors in military culture.

The full CNAS report is available online at the group’s website. The EY findings are also available at the firm’s web page.