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Shoring Up the Communication Gap


By James Madril

By James Madril

We teach veterans how to fish so they can eat for life.

Click here to read the entire May 2019 newsletter

Being a military veteran should be a more positive experience beyond the parades of July 4th and Veterans Day. My resume says, “highly educated and diversely trained” and it means it. I have had multimillion-dollar responsibilities in various fields, and I am confident in my ability to accomplish all kinds of tasks. The military taught me to know my strengths and weaknesses, and the same goes for other veterans as well. However, communicating in a civilian world is a weakness for veterans not often acknowledged, and can make finding a job in the civilian world difficult.

The problem is not that veterans are uneducated. On the contrary, 84.8% of Active Duty Officers have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, which is more than double the percentage of U.S. civilians at just 34.2%. The problem is that military and civilian life are vastly different from one another.

Education level of active duty officers

While the military does offer Transition Assistance Programs, it often does not equip them with the practical skills they need to find and keep a job after years of service. Between the differences in terminology or the employer’s feeling that military experience does not translate to real-world experience, the current environment around veteran employment can be daunting. Veterans are now protected under the Equal Opportunity for Employment Act, and the government tries to help by offering employers tax incentives to hire veterans, but it is still difficult to find employment because the root problem, namely communication, is not being addressed.

At Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph, we understand the challenges of communication because listening and understanding the client is our first priority. Our Veteran Services team is staffed with compassionate and dedicated people, many of whom are veterans.

The Veteran Employment Services Workshop is designed specifically for veterans by veterans and is offered to those in need of work. Veterans Employment Services are provided individually and tailored to each veterans needs. When a veteran walks in we first offer them a fresh look at the similarities we share in our military experiences. Eventually, we help the client take those similarities and see them as a strength, rather than as a weakness in the civilian world. By encouraging veterans to engage in those similarities, we are able to build upon a solid foundation and increase their success rate within the program and eventual jobs.

We foster a series of positive habits and assist in eliminating the negative habits using tools and techniques veterans already know and understand, all while maintaining the dignity of the client by lending one-on-one support. We teach them hard and soft job skills, help them understand and build resumes, and advocate on their behalf to employers. We also teach veterans how to advocate for themselves, communicating their military experience as a unique and desirable asset.

In the work we do with veterans, we are not just “giving a person a fish” by providing them a “one and done” class. Rather, we are teaching the person how “to fish” and help them understand why it matters so that the veteran can “eat for life.” The big return is when the veteran client realizes that they already have the tools necessary for communicating well. What they once saw as a weakness is now a strength. When they reach this mindset, there is a positive and exciting shift in their thinking and confidence. It gives them the hope that it is possible, they do have a future, and that they are cared for. Sometimes, that is all the difference in the world.

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