Veterans face many challenges when transitioning back into civilian life, with starting a second career being one of the biggest hurdles.
A recent study from LinkedIn found 33 percent of veterans are underemployed and are 15 percent more likely to be underemployed than nonveteran peers. Although this number has dropped significantly in recent years, with veterans 38 percent more likely to be unemployed in 2017, veterans still encounter barriers when finding a job beyond their time serving.
Service members experience unique struggles that many companies don’t understand when considering them for employment. Common challenges include translating military expertise into a new role, lack of formal certification or licensing and employer bias from veteran stereotypes portrayed in the media.
At Werner, we believe in serving those who served us and know the significant value and potential veterans provide, with approximately 20 percent of our workforce are current or former military members. We are deeply committed to hiring veterans and equipping them with the resources and opportunities to build lifelong careers.
In our “From Uniform to Civilian” series, we spoke with three exceptional Werner team members who are veterans and hold different positions within our company. By sharing their stories, we hope to shed light on their experiences and perspectives, highlight their valuable insights and unique contributions to the organization, and talk about the challenges they encountered during their transition.
To hear more from all three of our veterans, you can also watch their segment with Military Makeover.
For the first installment of our “From Uniform to Civilian series, we spoke with Jafi R., Senior Manager of Military Programs.
Can you tell us a little bit about your time in the military?
I served in the U.S. Air Force for nine years. I joined to travel the world and get some experience under my belt. During that time, I was sent out on four deployments.
As you can imagine, being in a combat zone is mentally straining. During my last deployment for a highly sensitive mission, we were told during a debrief that our mission resulted in the capture and fatality of Osama Bin Laden.
What brought you to your current role with Werner?
My transition from military life to civilian life was not easy. While transitioning out of the Air Force, I attended a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hiring our Heroes event, where Werner was also in attendance. During that time, I learned more about Werner and their variety of career opportunities. I thought transitioning to civilian work in transportation and logistics would be challenging, but I knew I have what it takes to be successful.
At the start of my career with Werner, I was hired as a Nighttime Fleet Coordinator and later promoted to Operations Supervisor. During that time, I began assisting the recruiting department with their military needs as my workload allowed. Eventually, I transferred to the Recruiting Department into my current role as a Senior Manager of Military Programs.
What is it like being a veteran at Werner?
I’m in a unique position at Werner, where I am a veteran and help other veterans. I’m also heavily involved with everything regarding the U.S. military at Werner.
I enjoy having the opportunity to serve as a resource for other veterans and help those at Werner find their place in civilian life, just like I have. If any of my fellow brothers or sisters in arms have questions or concerns, I hope they always feel that they can reach out to me so I can either provide them with an answer or guide them to another member of the Werner team who can help them.
What skills could you translate over from your time in the military?
I believe everyone learns different skills while in the military. How they decide to use them later in life is what is important. The things that stayed with me into civilian life are “Integrity First,” leadership among your peers, communication, time management and providing a high level of service.
Werner’s received multiple Military Friendly® Awards. Can you tell us about that?
I’m incredibly proud of those awards. In addition, we’ve received the Freedom Award, the highest Department of Defense Award that any company can receive.
What would you tell other veterans looking to find the next step in their career?
It’s okay to step outside of your comfort zone. I knew absolutely nothing about the transportation industry and still joined Werner. I did so because I found a company that checked off every box in terms of what I was looking for in my next ‘home.’ I knew that I could lean on my skills, and in turn, Werner could trust that with my military background and training, I would be successful in the workplace.
I have been at my ‘home’ for over 10 years and have celebrated many successes personally, with my work team and as a company. I could not have done this if I did not step out of my comfort zone, relied on my military experience and found an employer that had as much faith in my military experience and training as I did.
To learn more about transitioning to civilian life as a professional driver, click here. For more info on our current opportunities for veterans, click here. To learn more about the many ways Werner supports our veterans, click here.
If you’re a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one, there are caring, qualified VA responders standing by to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Veterans Crisis Line is a free, anonymous, confidential resource that’s available to anyone, even if you’re not registered with the VA or enrolled in VA health care.