AJL Works with Veterans: Transitioning from Military to Civilian Careers

November 11 marks Veterans’ Day, a day dedicated to honoring American service members. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, American veterans numbered 21.2 million, and of those, 495,000 were unemployed. As workforce development professionals, assisting veterans in transitioning from military to civilian careers is an important service we can offer to honor our vets.

A recent “Veterans in the Workplace” report, published by Hiring Our Heroes on November 2, 2016, surveyed 400 human resource professionals and 1,000 recently transitioned veterans. The survey found that veterans who began their job search at least six months prior to leaving active duty had the most success in transitioning from military to civilian careers. In entering the job market, surveyed veterans reported difficulty deciding what career path to pursue, lack of communication from hiring managers, and insufficient resources or contacts.

As those who use our system know, America’s JobLink (AJL) is a great tool for recruiting and assisting veterans seeking employment. Job orders are posted in accordance with Veteran’s Priority of Service settings (which are customizable by state), so employers can be confident that veterans and covered persons have first access to job listings. Resumes from veterans and covered persons are easily identified using filters to return veterans and by icons next to resume titles. With specialized reports tracking self-service and staff-assisted veterans, other eligibles, and covered persons, workforce center staff can easily identify who needs to be contacted and who has been receiving services.

Sergio Estrada graphic
Sergio Estrada from Illinois Department of Employment Security–Thank you for your 27.5 years of service in the Marine Corps!

America’s Job Link Alliance (AJLA) Steering Committee member, Sergio Estrada, Manager of Federal Performance Reporting for the Illinois Department of Employment Security, retired as a Marine Sergeant Major after 27.5 years of active duty and has worked with veterans in the workforce for 11 years. We asked him a few questions about working with veterans. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: What was your experience transitioning from a military to civilian career? What was most helpful during your transition?

A: My experience was good. The Transition Assistance Program (TAP)—which provides employment and training information to armed forces members within 180 days of separation or retirement—conducted at Great Lakes Naval Base was very helpful. The coordinator had a speaker from the Illinois Department of Employment Security who briefed those attending on the issues we were facing transitioning from military to civilian life, as well as how to register for the State Labor Exchange, write resumes, and interview for jobs. With those resources, a week after I retired from the Marines, I was employed with the State Department of Veterans Affairs.

Q: What would you say to a workforce staff member who’s new to working with veterans?

A: Listen to the veteran and try putting yourself in their shoes.

Q: What are the biggest obstacles to veterans finding employment?

A: Pride! Most veterans hate failing. They feel that they can do it alone without the help of others.

Q: If you were to organize a workshop for veterans who are seeking employment, what would you focus on?

A: Inform the veterans that we are there to guide them throughout the process, and there’s nothing wrong with seek help.

Q: What resources do you find most helpful to refer vets to?

A: Federal and State Veterans’ Assistance (VA) benefits, such as VA home loans, and state and federal education assistance, and TAP’s employment services presentations on the military base.

This Veterans’ Day, let’s be especially mindful of service members who are transitioning from military to civilian careers. Every day, not just November 11, is an opportunity not just to thank a veteran, but also to offer our support and assistance as workforce center staff. Investing in the futures of veterans is the least we can do in return for their service.

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#InclusionWorks: Celebrating Diversity in the Workplace

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a time to focus on the value that workers with disabilities bring to the workplace. With nearly 20% of the working age population represented by people with disabilities (think one in five), employing workers with disabilities is a timely and important topic to the workforce development community.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month Poster

Disability employment is an important facet of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), as explored in Section 188, which was originally enacted with Workforce Investment Act (WIA) in 1998 and continues to apply to the updated WIOA legislation of 2015. Section 188 seeks to prevent discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or political affiliation or belief.

To assist American Job Centers with understanding and applying inclusionary practices, the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) developed “Promising Practices in Achieving Universal Access and Equal Opportunity: A Section 188 Disability Reference Guide.” Other resources, like The Disability and Employment Community of Practice, educate employers and workforce staff on providing services and programs to people with disabilities.

To celebrate and promote awareness of NDEAM, we’ve prepared a quick list of Do’s and Don’ts for making your workplace or American Job Center more inclusive:

Do…

  • Test your website, online applications, recruitment material, and social media content for accessibility. (See Section 508 for detailed info on accessibility standards.) The America’s JobLink system is routinely tested for accessibility using the SSB BART Group’s Accessibility Management Platform (AMP). AMP is a web-based solution for meeting Section 508, Americans with Disabilities (ADA), WCAG, and other compliance needs.
  • Provide accommodations for public spaces and events, such as considering the height of display tables, offering a variety of publication formats, or being prepared with assistive technology.
  • Participate in internship, mentorship, and hiring programs for students and recent grads with disabilities.
  • Consider the needs of employees with disabilities when developing emergency management plans.

Don’t…

Have something to add to the list? Let us know in the comments.

List Lovers: Discover the Bullet Journal for Work

I have a problem. Some might term it an addiction. I love lists. I need lists. I have lists for everything; I have lists of new lists to make. I have whole notebooks dedicated to my lists. And recently, I’ve found I’m not alone. Buzzfeed, Reddit, and Instagram have been populating the internet with images of lists, in the name of a new trend: Bullet Journaling.

Bullet Journaling is a style of tracking your life in a notebook. The term and the system was designed by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer from Austria. Carroll struggled with focusing and needed a way to capture his ideas, so he developed this system. He has described the system as

“For the list-makers, the note-takers, the Post-It note pilots, the track-keepers, and the dabbling doodlers. Bullet Journal is for those who feel there are few platforms as powerful as the blank paper page. It’s an analog system for the digital age that will help you organize the present, record the past, and plan for the future.”Bullet Journal

So what does this have to do with the workforce? Bullet Journaling is not limited to tracking grocery lists or birthdays; job seekers, students, and employees can use a daily journal to visually track progress toward career or educational goals with lists such as:

  • To Do: Note the tasks that require your attention. Make use of the Bullet Journal symbols to track whether the tasks have been completed, migrated to another list, or scheduled.
  • Kudos: Track the compliments you receive on your work. Whether you are an employee with a yearly review coming up or a job seeker interviewing for a new job, you can pull out this list as evidence of the work you’ve done well.
  • Lessons Learned: Write down something you’ve learned that day or week, whether it is a new skill or a reflection.
  • Accomplishments: Record projects that have been completed or goals that have been reached. If possible, write down the outcome.
  • Progress: Break down projects or goals into manageable tasks, and track when each phase is completed.
  • Duties: Divide responsibilities into daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.

Communities have sprung up around the Bullet Journal trend, and among them are the Bullet Journal Professionals. Wondering why you should keep your own Bullet Journal as a workforce professional? Don’t worry; there’s a list for that.

The Benefits of Using a Bullet Journal at Work:

  • Organize and prioritize your responsibilities in one place.
  • Document growth and success in your career for reviews and raises.
  • Refer to the lists when building your portfolio or LinkedIn profile.
  • Record the ideas and plans that usually get lost in the shuffle.
  • Feel a sense of accomplishment from checking off completed tasks and projects.
  • Reflect on successes and missed opportunities.

If you’re a case manager in an American Job Center, consider sharing the benefits of Bullet Journaling with your clients. Maybe you could even offer a “Bullet Journaling for Your Job Search” workshop! If you keep your own Bullet Journal or something similar, be sure to comment and/or post images below. You can also check out our Bullet Journaling at Work board on Pinterest for inspiration.

Celebrating the American Workforce

You know it as a day off—a day to relax, probably grill out, maybe take a short road trip or save money on appliances or back-to-school sales. But Labor Day—the first Monday in September—celebrates the accomplishments of American industry. Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894, a time when the impact of the Industrial Revolution was manifesting itself in labor strikes and rallies—workers coming together to demand safer and more humane working conditions with better pay. The late 19th century and early 20th century was a crucial time for establishing laws that regulated labor—from banning child labor to restricting the number of hours in a work day. (Read more about the history of Labor Day and the labor movement here and here.)

Labor Day Graphic

While conditions for American workers have drastically improved since the 1894, the U.S. Department of Labor is still working toward “building a shared prosperity for a stronger America”, focusing on the following topics:

  • A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work: Increasing the national minimum wage and providing overtime protection;
  • Providing a path to get ahead: Providing education and training for middle-class employment;
  • A job with family values: Balancing work­–home life;
  • A chance to succeed no matter where you start: Helping underserved, at-risk, and recently incarcerated individuals find employment; and
  • A voice in the workplace: Empowering workers to speak up about their needs.

So this Monday, while you’re enjoying the national holiday, think about how far we’ve come as a nation of workers, and look ahead to an even stronger workforce that celebrates equality and American values.

Color Me Stress-Free: The Adult Coloring Trend at Work

Have you noticed stacks of coloring books in the magazine racks in the grocery store? Have you seen patrons at coffee shops, book stores, or libraries with pencils or crayons spread out around them? Did you notice Twitter and Instagram were inundated with the hashtag #NationalColoringBookDay this past Wednesday? Well, if you can answer yes to any of these questions, you are likely aware of a new trend that’s taken hold across the U.S.: adult coloring books. Maybe you’re familiar with the trend; maybe you’ve even bought a coloring book for yourself. Maybe you’re wondering why we’re writing about coloring on a workforce development blog.

Coloring page from AJLA ConferenceAt the 28th Annual AJLA Conference in San Francisco, the theme was Collaborate – Create – Captivate. One goal of the conference was to encourage attendees to be creative and to develop new perspectives, like learning how to take graphic notes. Each attendee received a pack of colored pencils and a coloring and doodle sheet (download your own here). We did this not just to be cool and trendy, but also because coloring has been proven to reduce stress, increase mindfulness, and to contribute to an overall more healthy life.

As Tom Roston of ideas.ted.com writes, “…there is something calming about engaging in a familiar, low-impact activity that requires minimal thought and bestows a clear sense of progress.” The benefit of taking a quick coloring break at work is that this simple task allows you to hit pause on your self-consciousness, resetting your focus and potentially jump-starting your creative problem-solving skills (Tate). Studies have even demonstrated a clear reduction in cortisol (stress hormone) levels after participating in an art task (Kaimal, Ray, & Muniz).

While we’re not advocating for you to ditch your responsibilities at work in favor of coloring a masterpiece, we do suggest you find what works for you to reset your focus and increase your creativity. Maybe it’s taking five minutes or a lunch break to color or draw. Maybe it’s watching a funny cat video. But whatever it is, we hope you find that essential balance between work and play so that your productivity and creativity increase and any stress and anxiety decrease.

Got the Date for the Golden Gate

28th Annual Conference

We’re excited to announce that registration is now open for the 28th America’s Job Link Alliance (AJLA) Annual Conference in San Francisco, CA, July 19–22. This year’s conference theme is Collaborate – Create – Captivate, and we’ll be exploring the power of creativity and collaboration to captivate job seekers, employers, staff, and agency partners.

This four-day event begins on Tuesday, July 19, with the Annual Business Meeting, where we will review AJLA business, elect a new AJLA Executive Committee, and discuss product enhancement requests in sub-committee meetings. The following three days are packed with guest speakers and presentations by leaders in workforce development. By the end of the conference, our goal is that you will:

  • Network with speakers and other AJLA members;
  • Discuss WIOA final regulations and updates to TAA, UI, RESEA, and other programs;
  • Learn about upcoming updates and enhancements to AJLA products; and
  • Get inspired by the conference theme, sessions, and new perspectives on workforce issues.

For more reasons to come, and to download a “Convince Your Boss” attendance request letter, visit the About section of the Events page. The Events page also includes a draft of the schedule, hotel reservation information, online registration form, and other great info. The deadline for the AJLA reduced hotel rate is Monday, June 27, so register today! To receive additional updates about the conference and other AJLA events, sign up at ajla.net. We look forward to seeing you in San Francisco!

Thank You for Your Public Service

Public Service Recognition Week

The first week of May is Public Service Recognition Week, honoring those who work as government employees on the federal, state, county, and local levels. The event has been hosted by the Public Employees Roundtable since 1985, with the purpose of promoting government careers, educating Americans about the importance of public servants, and recognizing outstanding public service (About Us). In proclaiming the celebration of this week, President Barack Obama reminds us that “At the birth of our Nation, our Founders fought to secure a democracy that represents the people, and the civil servants who pour everything they have into making a difference are the individuals who keep that democracy running smoothly and effectively.”

So this week we would like to say thank you to all of our readers who are serving the public, especially those in the workforce industry who work daily to connect job seekers to employers and training providers.

If you’d like to recognize someone in your organization as an outstanding public service employee, we’d love to read about that person in the comments. You can also send a story to be featured in the Faces of Government profiles by emailing publicemployeesroundtable@gmail.com.