The War in Iraq is Over, but the Battle for Jobs is Just Beginning for Returning Vets

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If you’re a returning or recently returned veteran of the Middle East conflicts, Wall Street wants you! Or at least more and more financial firms say they're looking to hire veterans.

After all, Uncle Sam trained you to follow orders, taught you skills such as leadership and the ability to operate under pressure, drilled into you the power of teamwork and integrity, showed you how to be decisive and take initiative, and most of all have a strong work ethic. You are exactly what corporate America and Wall Street in particular is looking for.

Unemployment Among Veterans Hirer Than the Norm

You may wonder why unemployment among veterans is so much higher than the national average. The U.S. jobless rate among post-9/11 vets continues to hover around 11.5 percent and is substantially larger in some places such as New York where it’s around 15.2 percent, while the national unemployment rate has dropped to 8.6 percent.

According to the Labor Department, more than 200,000 military personnel who served in the Middle East are currently unemployed and another several thousand are about join them as they make their way home from Iraq, only to face a battle for jobs. In the financial sector, which has seen huge job losses in the past year, there already are many more candidates for each opening.

President Obama signed into law a bill that provides tax credits to companies hiring unemployed veterans. The tax breaks range from $5,600 to $9,600 with the size of the credit based on the worker’s salary and how long the worker was unemployed.

And a number of big financial firms like J.P. Morgan and Bank of America and most recently, the asset giant, BlackRock, have either already started initiatives to hire veterans or are developing them, as is the case with BlackRock.

But still, thousands of veterans are out of work. I met a former Air Force Captain at a New York Securities Analysts event who told me he has been looking for work for two years. I encouraged him to give J.P. Morgan a call.

100,000 Jobs Mission

As we reported earlier this year, J.P. Morgan is leading what’s called the “100,000 Jobs Mission” to hire 100,000 veterans by 2020. JPMorgan Chase is partnering with 10 other companies to provide jobs for members of the military who are leaving service.

Nate Herman, Executive Director of Military and Veterans Affairs at JPMorgan Chase, says the mission is well underway and that approximately 10 veterans have been hired every day since March. The top areas of interest for new veteran hires are investment banking, branch banking, collections, operations, technology and customer service. In addition, JPMorgan Chase has been holding internal training for the hiring managers to understand military culture.

What You Can Do to Help

If you’ve been in the military, then you know you can’t leave it up to others to do all the work. Given that Wall Street says it wants to hire you, here are some things you can do to help make that happen.

1) Emphasize the skills you’ve fine-tuned during your time in the military.

The following skills are particularly important:

  • Leadership
  • Planning and strategy
  • Action-oriented experience
  • Teamwork and communication skills
  • The ability to think on your feet

Give clear, concise examples of how you honed those skills and quantify your achievements using them.

2) Network like never before.

Find people you went to high school with and ask what they are doing now. Ask if you can meet them for a coffee or lunch or dinner. Let them know you are looking to join a business. Chances are they will know someone.

3) Carefully research the organization(s) where you wish to work.

Primary research consists of going online and learning all you can about the company in question, including but not limited to a review of the company Web site.

Be sure to review and think about the company’s mission statement, as well as the speeches given by their senior management. That will give you a sense of the culture of the firm in question.

4) Practice interviewing.

It’s possible that perhaps the government will provide resources for a mock interview, but if not, this is something in which you may want to invest.

5) Utilize non-traditional networking.

If you have friends at the institutions you want to work for, reach out to them. Also talk to anyone you know who works on Wall Street and ask them if they have contacts at other firms.

6) “Civilianize” your military resume.

Meet with someone in the business world who has a military background and ask them to help you "decode" your army resume to make it more accessible to the business community.

Wounded Warriors

At a time when financial firms are increasingly hiring veterans, one corporate finance-focused broker-dealer is concentrating on securing financial services jobs for those who’ve been injured.

Founded in 2008, Drexel Hamilton is a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) with offices on Wall Street and in Philadelphia. The company’s chairman and CEO, Lawrence K. Doll, is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Vet and the recipient of two Purple Hearts. The company’s 38-person workforce includes at least eight veterans who were injured in battle, James Cahill, the company’s president, tells eFinancialCareers.

Drexel Hamilton will still sometimes hire former vets who don’t find good enough opportunities at other Wall Street firms. However, its real goal is to cooperate with the Wall Street Warfighters Foundation to secure appropriate positions for wounded veterans outside its own circle of employees at places such as J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs, both of which have been supportive of Drexel Hamilton’s cause. Cahill, a former Solomon Bros. executive who lost a son on 9/11, says Goldman Sachs put up part of the start up money to capitalize Drexel Hamilton.

So to all you Johnnies and Janies who are marching home again, don’t let the gloomy employment picture get you down. When Uncle Sam wanted you, you stepped up. Now it’s time for America and Wall Street to step up for you.

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