AUGUSTA — Maine’s unemployment rate is 3.5 percent, according to the latest statewide employment report released by the Maine Department of Labor. While that’s good news for most of the state, Maine employers are struggling to find qualified candidates in this tight job market. At the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services we know that our veterans can contribute incredible skills and expertise to the workforce. Unfortunately, cultural barriers often cause unexpected complications for veterans seeking post-service employment.

I know firsthand how challenging finding a job after service can be. I moved to Maine from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, after separating from active duty six years ago. As a West Point graduate with a master’s degree in business administration from Northeastern University, a military police officer and a psychological operations officer who deployed five times in support of the global war on terror, I assumed that transitioning into the civilian workforce would be seamless. However, after months of job hunting and more than 30 applications, I did not receive a single call.

I felt like my life-changing, successful and universally applicable experiences in the military inexplicably had no value. From conversations with other veterans, I found that my experience was not unique. This is not what our veterans should expect after serving our country, nor should we allow it. In response, the state of Maine created the Maine Hire-a-Vet Campaign, recognizing the need to bridge this disconnect and realize the potential of job-seeking veterans.

Launched in 2015 by the Maine Department of Labor in partnership with the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services, the campaign commits to engaging 100 employers in hiring 100 veterans across 100 days (typically September to December). The campaign has been incredibly successful and is now a national model for state veteran hiring programs. In 2016, 197 veterans were hired by 147 employers at an average wage of $22.23 per hour. With one month left in the 2017 campaign, we are on track to surpass our goal of connecting 100 veterans with gainful employment.

The Maine Labor Department also provides employers with military and veteran cultural training to help them better understand military culture and how veterans’ skill sets can contribute to their workforce. A significant cultural difference addressed by this training is the comparatively inverse approach that each sector takes to promotions.

The military rewards good performance, but promotes on potential. As a result, all service members start their next military job having never done it before, but knowing that they are capable of succeeding at it. Every service member promoted into his or her next position is relatively unqualified for that role – but has shown the potential to learn and be successful.

Contrast that with the civilian world, where promotions and hiring decisions are based on past performance and demonstrated experience in a similar role. When a veteran enters the workforce they often look for jobs in which they may not have experience, but in which they have the potential to succeed. Hiring managers, looking for past, relevant experience in a resume, may not appreciate the adaptability and versatility that veterans bring, thereby leaving veterans out of the conversation and the opportunity.

I encourage employers to sign up for the Maine Hire-a-Vet Campaign to take advantage of available resources to hire veterans. You may also want to enlist veterans in your workforce to help with recruiting and hiring efforts. Veterans and transitioning service members who are looking for a new or a better job are encouraged to contact the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services for referrals to the employment resources available to them in Maine.

At the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services, we are committed to leading Maine’s veteran advocate community to best serve our veteran population. Whether it is bolstering employment opportunities, improving access to education opportunities or facilitating access to health care and mental health programs, we lead by example in honoring Maine’s legacy of service and our veterans’ contributions to our communities and our workforce.

For more information on these services or any other issue you need assistance with, please call us at 207-430-6035 or visit