Veterans’ civilian employment experiences: Lessons learnt from focus groups.

May, 2018

Employment of veterans after leaving military service appears to be an important factor affecting their transition back to civilian life. Although there are employment programs in place to assist veterans in their search for civilian employment post-service, these programs tend to focus on the practical aspects such as resume writing and interview skills. However, difficulties finding employment are most likely caused by more than just these practical factors. This study conducted focus groups with US military veterans to understand the veterans experiences of finding employment after leaving service. The focus groups highlighted experiences before they leave military service such as if they made any plans and preparations and factors after leaving service such experiencing barriers from employers as affecting their civilian employment success. Another key factor was whether the veterans were self-motivated and determined to continue to find employment even in the face of the challenges. These findings are important for understanding and informing the employment support veterans may need.


Emerging evidence highlights employment as a key factor influencing the success of transition from military to civilian life. Historically, employment programs have focused on improving skills such as resume writing and interview skills. However, it is likely that employment challenges are more than these practical barriers. Four focus groups with employed and unemployed Gulf War Era II veterans were conducted aimed at moving past a practical perspective by gaining experiential understandings of veterans’ employment. Thematic analysis indicated that the veterans’ employment experiences were best understood temporally in two master themes: pretransition and the divergent experiences of veterans who did and did not plan ahead and living the transition and the veterans’ experiences of employment barriers and facilitators. Further to the two master themes, an underlying thread of the need for self-determination was evident. Interpretation of the results led to the development of recommendations for policy, service provision, and future research.

Full Reference

Keeling, M., Ozuna, S., Kintzle, S., and Casto, C.A. (2018) Veterans’ civilian employment experiences: Lessons learnt from focus groups. Journal of Career Development.

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