New group aims to help vets make switch to civilian careers.

Unemployment is higher among veterans than the general population: around 8 percent, compared to 5.9 percent in the general population here in Northeast Florida. For the most recent cohort of Gulf War veterans, unemployment is about 10 percent. Preparing for a job search can be overwhelming for military members before they leave active duty, so many get a late start on developing a strategy.

Veterans who enter the civilian workforce must overcome several other unique challenges. First, they may have to develop a new career path if their military skill set doesn’t translate to civilian jobs (snipers, for example, or antisubmarine warfare specialists.) Service members also spend much of their career on deployment or transferring from city to city every few years, so they may not have established a network or developed networking skills. They are also adjusting to leaving their familiar culture behind and adjusting to new business models.

Understanding these challenges and helping veterans overcome them is the mission of a new nonprofit called Operation New Uniform. The organization, established in January of 2014, offers free training and coaching for veterans who are working on career transition. Executive director Justin Justice is a Navy veteran who was medically discharged after a back injury; he could no longer serve on ships and fulfill his duties as a sonar technician. “I thought I had it figured out,” he says of his career path after leaving the military. “I got an MBA, went to work in operations for a good company, but found that I never fully adjusted to the company culture. I left within a year and really struggled to figure out what should come next.”

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