Volunteer work after military service has been billed as a way for veterans to better connect to their communities and build new relationships. Now, a new study says it also might help them find better jobs.
Researchers tracking The Mission Continues fellowship program, which places veterans in volunteer organizations across the country, found that 90 percent of the participants believed the community work helped their chances of finding a job. More than 80 percent said the volunteer experience encouraged them to seek out a better career.
"The results suggest that the skills, experience and connections gained through service can also help veterans find meaningful employment that will enable them to sustain a sense of purpose and advance their career goals over the long term," the report stated.
The study was a joint effort between the Center for a New American Security and The Mission Continues, designed to highlight models for veterans' success. Study authors said the work shows the broad benefits of community service, especially for veterans unsure of their first steps of post-military life.
"We hope that other organizations see this as a call to use volunteer work and community outreach more in their programs," said Aaron Schienberg, regional director for The Mission Continues. "And we'd like to see the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs use it in their transition efforts as well."
The study tracked more than 400 group fellows, looking at their overall well-being before and after their six-month community service programs. They reported much stronger ties with neighbors and local leaders after the work, which in turn increased confidence and post-military support networks.
In addition, 45 percent of participants reported stronger relationships with family members, and 42 percent said their families became more socially active after the program.
"Furthermore, the results suggest that the skills, experience and connections gained through service can also help veterans find meaningful employment that will enable them to sustain a sense of purpose and advance their career goals over the long term," the study states.
Oliver Gould, research specialist at The Mission Continues, said the fellows in the program reflect a broad range of younger veterans, with about 75 percent reporting some service-connected disability. Officials see that as an indication the lessons learned from their research can be applied to other veterans outreach efforts.
The study is available at the CNAS website.