By Sarah Landrum
One of the biggest challenges facing military veterans in today’s current economic climate is adjusting to life after active duty, but this isn’t a simple matter of reintegrating into society.
Civilian life poses many significant barriers to entry, none more so than the challenges of returning to work and finding gainful employment. For everyday Americans, the pressure to find a job is often overwhelming, and sadly for veterans struggling with PTSD, it’s even more difficult.
Understanding PTSD and the Surrounding Situation
If you have made the leap, you may even be wondering if you’re actually ready to begin this new chapter. If there is one silver lining in all this, it’s that you are not alone.
While it’s important to note that most show no symptoms of PTSD, 20 percent of veterans returning from active duty do. This means around 675,000 of the 2.7 million or so American military who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will have experienced the effects of post-traumatic stress.
PTSD may be a complex condition to come to terms with, but in almost all instances it can be successfully managed. So if you’re looking to find employment as a veteran, this article will address the challenges you’ll undoubtedly face, along with ways you can overcome them.
- Finding Your Preferred Civilian Career Path
Seeking employment whilst dealing with PTSD requires no small amount of determination, but you’ll also need to follow a clear direction. Start by filtering out those job opportunities that relate to your skill set and would be a good fit based upon your work history.
Take the time to evaluate those career fields you think will be of interest and will be supportive of your particular situation. More importantly, avoid jobs in high-stress environments if you’ve experienced repeated flashbacks or other intense symptoms that may be cause for concern.
- Understanding What Your Triggers Are
Whilst you revise your options, remember to adjust for any triggers that may exacerbate your condition. As one of the first steps you’ll need to take when looking for employment in the civilian sector, ask yourself:
- What types of workplace environments or situations can agitate your symptoms?
- What is your reaction when experiencing PTSD symptoms? How will this affect others?
- What effective coping mechanisms can you employ in a workplace setting?
Identifying potential problems before they arise and learning what your triggers, reactions and coping mechanisms are will help you to identify suitable workplace environments and will ease your transition into your new civilian life and career.
- Fighting Alcohol or Drug Addiction
It is estimated over 40 million Americans suffer from some form of anxiety, and 19 million live with a major depressive disorder. Understandably, many veterans turn to drug and alcohol abuse for some kind of relief from emotional or mental struggles such as PTSD.
Like PTSD, substance abuse is an affliction rarely talked about, and this makes it that much more difficult for those seeking employment. Though it can feel as though there are no alternatives, treatment options are available.
Despite there being many misconceptions surrounding post-traumatic stress, the recovery process isn’t just about diagnosing and treating the root of the problem — it’s about addressing those underlying emotional and mental issues that can, and often do, affect veterans concurrently.
If you need help dealing with alcohol or drug addiction in order to continue your employment search in earnest, you should seek treatment to help get your life back as soon as possible.
- Networking and Reaching Out to Others for Support
A hardship faced by many veterans is returning home to friends, family and loved ones having faced extensive and emotionally taxing tours of duty. This is where your support network comes in.
While PTSD may make you feel isolated or disconnected from others, withdrawing from social activities only serves to compound the problem. Employment is ultimately about engaging and interacting with others, and fortunately there are several steps you can take to maintain your footing on solid ground.
Consider attending your local support group or join an online organization if you aren’t ready to take the next step. Just remember the people you surround yourself with will be invaluable to your recovery.
- Finding Understanding Companies
It’s an unfortunate truth, but many companies have reservations about hiring veterans who have been diagnosed as someone suffering from PTSD. This mainly comes down to misinformation and a general lack of understanding the condition and while it is an illegal form of discrimination, it’s often difficult to prove and almost impossible to document.
Once again, making the effort to socialize can open many doors and will be a way for you to meet with prospective military-friendly companies and potential employers in more casual settings. These opportunities are ideal for educating others about your situation, and if they can see that you’re making excellent progress, they may come around to investing in your particular skills.
By following the steps laid out in this guide, you’ll be able to better your chances of finding success when seeking employment and should be able to manage your transition into civilian life much more easily as a veteran with PTSD.
Good luck and happy hunting!
About the Author
Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and founder of Punched Clocks. Coming from a military family, Sarah is passionate about helping veterans find and succeed in a civilian career. Follow Sarah for more advice on career development @SarahLandrum