According to the United States Census Bureau (2011), there are currently over 9.6 million veterans in the work force. Regardless of the setting in which services are provided, as a career practitioner, you will most likely have the opportunity to work with veterans at some point in time. This population has some unique needs and characteristics which career practitioners should be cognizant of in order to make an interaction more productive.
Veterans face several barriers to career success and may need coaching or reassurance to overcome these barriers whether they are perceived or real. These include the following:
Culture shock: Often identified as the most difficult transition, veterans may experience culture shock when transitioning from a highly structured culture focused on team to an unstructured environment focused on individuality. They may experience grief over the loss of their military identity which has taken years to develop. This is particularly true for retired veterans who have devoted many years to the military and have achieved higher ranks – going from a respected, high-ranking officer or non-commissioned officer to being the new person in the office can be very intimidating and stressful.
Communication skills: Veterans are accustomed to using military jargon and speaking in acronyms. They may be very direct in their communication style and need to concentrate on communicating in civilian terms. Evaluation of this skill and coaching may be imperative for success.
Employer perception: Whether true or not, many employers perceive veterans as lacking creativity, being very rigid in their thinking, and having the potential of bringing too many problems to the workplace. On the other hand, some employers recognize and value the contributions that a veteran brings to the workplace. Strengths such as leadership, responsibility, punctuality, self-discipline, team-orientated, and competitiveness are sought after in the corporate environment.
Military culture: When an individual enters into military service, they find a very different culture than they have experienced in civilian life. Often they are provided housing and uniforms. They may have lived on base and never dealt with mortgages, rent, or utilities. They are accustomed to frequent relocation and deployments. Civilian jobs may seem boring and unfulfilling compared to military careers. There is a definite rank and structure within the military and it is apparent from the uniform and insignia where you belong in that structure. Transition to civilian life affects family members as well. All of these factors are in play while, at the same time, the veteran is looking to the future.
Because of a variety of factors, many of which have been mentioned, veterans may lack the knowledge and skills to make effective career decisions. Use of the Cognitive Information Processing model (CIP) may be an effective step in addressing this need.
Several researchers (Bullock et al., 2009; Clemens & Milsom, 2008; Phillips et al., 2007) have suggested the Cognitive Information Processing (CIP) approach to career decision making as a way to assist veterans in their transition into the civilian workforce. The Cognitive Information Processing (CIP) approach aims to help individuals with current career choices, as well as develop the skills necessary for future career decisions. This theoretical perspective asserts that career problem solving and decision-making involve the key aspects of self-knowledge, occupational knowledge, decision-making skills, and meta-cognitions. For a more detailed description of this approach, please see Sampson, Reardon, Peterson, and Lenz (2004).
Self-knowledge includes identifying values, interests, skills, and employment preferences with a client.
Career practitioners can utilize career assessments, card sorts, and skills inventory worksheets
Use of the DD Form 2586, Verification of Military Experience and Training Document (VMET), a verification document which lists veterans’ military and training experience, can be an effective stimulus to spark conversation, in addition to assessing work history and life experiences (i.e., military training and deployment)
Options knowledge includes knowledge of occupational choices and may include
researching veteran-friendly employers in the area,
connecting the veteran with students/alumni of similar backgrounds who have successfully transitioned into the world of work (i.e., Student Veterans Association),
utilizing military skills translator websites (i.e., O*Net military crosswalk search) which allow veterans to translate their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) or field designation into civilian terms, and
encouraging the veteran to engage in job shadowing, informational interviewing, networking (student veterans information exchange events), and federal career fair events.
Decision making skills involves understanding the CASVE cycle, a multi-phase decision-making process which includes communication, analysis, synthesis, valuing, and execution.
CASVE model provides an explicit description of the decision making process. This can walk the veteran through the initial phase of getting a job to meet basic needs and can continue to aid their decision making as they pursue more satisfying career options throughout their lives.
Executive processing(metacognitions) involves assessing any negative thoughts the client may be experiencing, as this can interfere with an individual’s job search process.
The career practitioner can assist the veteran in challenging and altering these negative career thoughts and in developing and following through with an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) or by utilizing the Career Thoughts Inventory (CTI).
In summary, this article provides a basic understanding of what the Cognitive Information Processing (CIP) approach is and strategies practitioners can utilize to assist their veteran clients in enhancing their problem-solving and decision-making skills. This approach is one resource career practitioners can utilize to empower their clients to build upon their career dreams.
Bullock, E. E., Braud, J., Andrews, L., Phillips, J. (2009). Career concerns of unemployed U.S.war veterans: Suggestions from a Cognitive Information Processing approach. Journal ofEmployment Counseling, 46, 171-181.
Clemens, E. V., & Milsom, A. S. (2008). Enlisted service members’ transition into the civilianworld of work: A Cognitive Information Processing approach. The Career DevelopmentQuarterly, 56, 246-256.
Phillips, J., Braud, J., Andrews, L., & Bullock, E. (2007, November). Bridging the gap from jobto career in U.S. veterans. Career Convergence: Web Magazine. Retrieved fromwww.ncda.org
Sampson, J. P., Jr., Reardon, R. C., Peterson, G. W., & Lenz, J. G. (2004). Career counselingand services: A cognitive information processing approach. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.
United States Census Bureau (2011). Facts for Features: Veterans Day 2011. Retrieved from
Mary Buzzetta, M.S., LPC is a Career Advisor in the Career Center at Florida State University and a current doctoral student in the combined Counseling Psychology and School Psychology program. Her research interests focus on college student career development and counseling, with particular focus on the Cognitive Information Processing (CIP) approach. She also has an interest in working with the student veteran population. Additionally, she has experience teaching undergraduate and graduate career development courses. She can be contacted at email@example.com
Shirley Rowe, M.Ed., CDF-I is a career development practitioner with over 15 years’ experience working with a wide range of clients including college students, veterans, and career changers. She has been selected to serve on the NCDA Career Development Facilitator Advisory Council and has instructed the CDF curriculum and undergraduate career development courses. Shirley is particularly interested in the use of technology in providing career services. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.