Pre-conceived notions about former Australian Defence Force personnel are making it tough for veterans to find a job.
About 30 per cent of veterans are unemployed, according to WithYouWithMe, a company that matches veterans’ skills with new careers.
The company hosted the careers expo in Sydney, where about 25 businesses were on show in an effort to help the 150 veterans who turned up to look for a job.
Tom Moore, the founder of WithYouWithMe, has more than eight years’ experience in the military, including service in Afghanistan where he led a combat team into Kandahar Province in 2013.
Mr Moore left the Army after problems with his legs and knows first hand re-entering civilian life is not always easy.
“It is hard. I applied for over 100 jobs, got about seven interviews,” he said.
Mr Moore eventually found work after cold-calling company CEOs.
The WithYouWithMe program involves mentoring veterans to find their new mission in life and train them up for jobs in industries with a high demand for workers.
“Veterans are brilliant talent, it’s just that we don’t know what’s out there, so we fire a shot gun round instead of a sniper bullet when we transition,” Mr Moore said.
“Employers love the values that veterans bring, but in Australia they really haven’t captured that yet.”
A WithYouWithMe report found the veteran unemployment rate was five times higher than the national average.
It has placed 172 veterans in jobs since it started in May last year and is looking to expand to the United States in six months.
Army combat engineering officer Gabe Marzano had an interview with software company SAP Australia, which was looking for sales agents.
“The reception today has been phenomenal actually,” she said.
“I know there’s a common misconception about Defence personnel, almost being a bit of a liability to industries, but I think the vast majority — if not all Defence personnel — are very talented.”
The Army scuba diver has been playing in the W-League for Sydney FC when not on duty.
Ms Marzano said she was now planning her next career move, and sales seemed like the perfect fit.
“Or somewhere where I can be around people all the time, and make new friends, somewhere that I can be in a high-performing environment,” she said.
She pointed to her background in the military for equipping her with skills that could come in handy in the corporate world.
“The military instils a lot of really highly desirable qualities such as integrity and teamwork,” Ms Marzano said.
“We’re humble people and we do like to credit the team. We do have high levels of work ethic as well.
“And I think, from what I’ve seen and been exposed to, that doesn’t often happen in the civilian work place.”
Former military policeman Jayson Christian is among the job seekers at the expo looking for a career to engage and sustain him.
He left in 2009 after serving 18 years and working in close personal protection in the Middle East.
Now Mr Christian works as a bus driver, but has been eyeing a career in cyber security, a sector with a big need for skilled workers.
He said his own experience showed Defence was letting down members with a transition process that involved lots of slide shows full of information that did not translate to the private sector.
Mr Christian urged employers to “look at the attitude, not the resume” of the person in front of them.
“You really need to sell yourself in relation to your personality because people don’t understand your skill sets,” he said.
“They see this Defence person through media in relation to movies or whatever else, they’re broken goods. I have personally come up against that stigma time and time again.”
Read online with ABC.