A Call for Associations to Step Up for Veterans Employment: My Challenge to SHRM, APPA, and Others

I spend most of my time talking to recruiters and hiring managers about hiring military veterans.  When we get to the discussion on where to find veterans to hire, occasionally I am asked why service members don’t post their resumes with the professional associations from which employers hire.  For example, if an employer needs to hire a facilities manager, he/she might post the job on a large job board like CareerBuilder but would also likely post open positions with the Association of Physical Plant Administrators (APPA).  Human Resources professionals often look for other HR professionals from within SHRM – the Society for Human Resource Management. I believe there are two primary reasons you don’t often see transitioning service members posting resumes to association job boards:

  1. Lack of awareness. Many veterans have not encountered the many non-military professional associations that represent the occupations they have in the military.  Typically, the first time a military person would become aware of an association is in college or vocational/technical school, since professional associations are referred to during instruction and they often provide educational materials and other resources to the classroom.    Not all service members choose to pursue post-secondary education (at least not immediately after leaving the service), so there is a significant contingent of veterans out there who have the right skills, experience and background to be contributing members of a professional association, but who will not learn of these organizations until long after they need its services the most.
  2. Cost. Many associations require membership in order to post a resume.  Of those that don’t require membership, some charge a service fee to a non-member to submit a resume.  Many of the companies, government services and non-profit entities whose mission is to meet the needs of service members in transition do so at no charge to the veteran.  Military members can post their resumes with those groups for free.

In summary – the veteran will conduct his/her job search with the organizations that he/she comes in contact with, particularly if that organization is offering to assist at no charge. Professional organizations may argue that they don’t exist primarily to be job boards for their members (or for companies interested in hiring military veterans).  Their mission is first and foremost to promote knowledge sharing among members, to research and provide “best practices” for their industries, and to professionally develop their constituents.   So why should an association make a special effort to support the needs of veterans in transition to civilian employment?  Two reasons:

  1. To grow the membership. An association that has a data base of resumes and jobs is a critical benefit which attracts new members and retains existing members.
  2. To provide an equal opportunity to another demographic in need. Most associations already offer student membership rates to encourage those studying the profession a means to afford entry.  More and more associations are also offering a reduced or even free temporary membership (usually to an existing member) who has lost a job within the last membership year in order to facilitate that member staying connected to the organization and to take advantage of the knowledge and benefits (like the job board) offered by the association.

What can associations do to facilitate connecting transitioning military members’ resumes with employers looking to hire those skills?

  1. Reach out to the military. Just as employers make the effort to learn where to find sources of military veterans to hire, associations need to contact those same sources and connect to veterans in transition.  Explain to those service members the value of membership as a means to both job leads in their career field as well as a source of industry knowledge that will serve them wherever they land.
  2. Offer a special reduced (or free!) 1-year membership rate for veterans in transition.  In this case transition would be defined as going from active duty to civilian life or from a mobilization tour (for National Guard/Reserve) back to civilian life.
  3. Create education/training/certification programs specifically to prepare military members for civilian careers in your industry.  The National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE) is a good example of an organization doing just this.  NACE has a corrosion training program that it offers free to Department of Defense personnel.

If you represent an association that is already doing any of the above three ideas (or related ideas) for military veterans I’d like to hear about it.   Please be sure to comment below.