Accelerating Veterans and Transitioning Military Personnel towards Job Readiness, Employment, and Successful Reintegration

By John C. Koontz

Peek around the corner of my cubicle on any given day and you will hear a conversation that goes something like this…

“How can I help you today?”

I have to find a job. I have been unemployed for the last 18 months and just can’t seem to find anything or get hired by anyone. Not even to clean. I just don’t understand.”

“Tell me a little about what you are doing to look for work.”

I must spend 5 to 6 hours a day on the Internet looking on Craigslist, Careerbuilder, Monster, USAJobs and other websites, applying for anything that I even come close to qualifying for, and yet I haven’t had a single interview or call in a year! I mean four or five resumes and applications a day. Nothing! What am I doing wrong?”

Performing an Effective Job Search
To say finding a job in the midst of today’s tight job market is difficult is an understatement. Especially if you consider that the majority of unemployed veterans do not know how to perform an effective job search. Some don’t even know where to begin. They sit on their computers sending out resume after resume, submitting application after application to no avail. At the same time, employers continue to search for candidates to fill their vacancies.

In an effort to solve this problem, the Veterans Team in the Jefferson County Workforce Center is thinking outside of the box. We are taking an approach that not only assists veterans with finding that job to make ends meet, but we take our mission one step further. We create ‘Job Ready’ veterans who are steps above their non-veteran counterparts and ready to step into their next career. By utilizing the Veterans Career Transition Management System© and implementing a new program called VETPROPULSION®, we are accelerating the veteran towards job readiness, employment and successful reintegration.

VETPROPULSION® is new program that can be easily replicated by career counselors, Workforce Centers and any other programs that work with unemployed veterans or transitioning military personnel. This program is a comprehensive, intense, 36 hour course of instruction, utilizing a modern, comprehensive job search process, which goes beyond what is offered through the TAP classes and puts the various pieces of the job search process into a complete picture. This program provides the veteran with structure and positive reinforcement throughout the process. As an integral part of this course, we discuss and instruct veterans on all the facets of a modern job search including an interactive discussion about how to translate your skills and accomplishments from your military service into terms that civilian employers can understand. We also focus on how to access the 'hidden job market' through networking and social media. By utilizing this course of instruction, veterans are brought to a job ready status in a shorter amount of time as compared to other Workforce Center programs.

Putting it into Practice

Classroom instruction focuses on the integral parts of any job search including: personal and professional self-assessment, accomplishments, resumes and interviewing, networking, negotiating and job retention strategies. At the beginning of each class, participants practice their elevator pitch, provide an overview of their job search activities, and the assigned homework. This allows the participants the opportunity to become comfortable with delivering their elevator pitch and holds them accountable and motivated while working through the VetCTMS® system. It allows the participants to gain confidence by interacting with their classmates in a safe and structured environment. While the kit provides excellent resources, they are of no help to participants if not put into practice.

Each subject is taught using a variety of instruction techniques including lecture, small and medium group activities, and role-playing. By utilizing varying methods of instruction, instructors are able to provide help for each participant, many of whom may learn through different means. Participants provide constructive feedback and suggestions beyond that of the instructor. The last part of the class is reserved for review of the class activities and for providing the next weeks assignments.

While a majority of the information and topics covered pertain to the entire group, there is information that needs to be kept confidential. Each participant is encouraged to meet with a veterans’ representative to discuss their individual needs and job search activities as it pertains to them. Individual job search assistance, job development contacts or possible training needs along with possible barriers to employment are discussed at individual appointments as they pertain to the individual, and not the group.

VETPROPULSION is not a magic bullet or a miracle solution to unemployment by any means. It provides participants with the confidence, knowledge and tools needed in today’s tough job market. According to recent participants, “It is very familiar working with binders with tabs just as we had in the service. It has organized and kept me motivated throughout.” Another participant commented on the positive strengthening of her job search program while another veteran said that he had worked for the Federal government for over twenty years and when reading the manual discovered how little he knew about how the Federal government hired. All are accurate testimonials to the value of VETPROPULSION®

John KoontzJohn C. Koontz, a service-connected disabled veteran of the United States Air Force, currently works for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment as a Veterans Career Development Specialist / Disabled Veterans Outreach Program Specialist in Golden, Colorado.  He was recently awarded the Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) certification and has over 8 years of experience working with a wide range of transitioning military personnel and veterans, assisting them with all aspects of the job search process.  He is active  in a variety of Veterans Service Organizations and his local community demonstrating a passion for assisting his fellow veterans as they move from the military to the civilian world. You may contact John atjkoontz@jeffco.us or via telephone at 303.408.2671.


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