The Career Coach: Job Advice for Older Veterans

March 22, 2012 |
Navy veteran and career counselor Tom Wolfe answers your civilian career questions every week — below are answers to the latest questions. Email your questions to Tom at
I am an older Vietnam Veteran. I have a college degree but there is much age discrimination out there. Any suggestions?
There are many obstacles to finding suitable employment. Sadly, for older veterans, the “gray” ceiling is pretty common. I suggest you start by viewing at the information at the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment & Training website ( or call them: 1-866-4USADOL.  There are also an increasing number of organizations sponsoring employment programs for senior and elder workers, although they tend to be geographically specific so they may or may not fit your needs. Here are a few: 


Good hunting, Frank, and thanks for your service!


Tom, suggests you as The Guy for career advice!
Please review my attachments.  Any advice from you is welcome.

Having reviewed the information you provided, I have several thoughts.  

  1. Your combination of Naval Officer and commercial experience creates an impressive resume, but it suffers from TMI (too much info). There is way too much ink and way too much detail. Rule of thumb: one page for every 10 years since HS or college graduation, whichever came last. That means you get two pages, not three. Although your third page is in essence an addendum and that is a good way to cut down the size of the baseline resume, the combination of all that ink hurts your chances. Contact me off-line and I will help you with that.
  2. It appears you are narrowing yourself to a specific location-focused search. Job searches are all about filters and each party (job seeker and potential employer) use filters to narrow down the field. If you have a non-negotiable filter (in your case, location) then you must eliminate as many other filters as possible to off-set that requirement: Money? Travel? Working hours? Job satisfaction?
  3. In my book I talk about “Uncle Harry and Aunt Mary.” They are contacts, known  and unknown, at potential employers. I offer seven ways to find them, and in your case, one of the best is via college alumni services. I suspect you are already aware of a resource called iSABRD. I have seen many “geographically handicapped” job seekers use that resource effectively. Reach out to me if you are not familiar with it.

I hope that helps a bit. Good hunting and thank you for your service!

Tom Wolfe is an author, columnist, career coach, veteran, and an expert in the field of military-to-civilian career transition. During his career he assisted thousands of service members in their searches for employment, placing more than 3000 in their new jobs. Prior to civilian life, he graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy and served as a surface warfare officer. He teaches transition courses, gives seminars on career and job change, writes about the career transition process, and continues to counsel current and former military personnel. His book, OUT OF UNIFORM: Your Guide to a Successful Military-to-Civilian Career Transition, was published by Potomac Books in 2011.

About Ho Lin

Ho Lin is an editor at His interests include naval history, the New York football Giants, and loud rock music.


  1. Hickelbilly says:

    Yes Sir I have some advice of my own. Settle for what you can get. It's a changing world. Unless you have a skill that is in demand and proving performance record, a degree means squat. I say that because I assume you have less than twenty years to give a potential employer. Any experience you have is, most likly, old fashion and out of date. A sad fact, older people learn more slowly, have less energy, and an increase in medical risks. There are plenty of jobs out there for the older people but most often they are the jobs with no hope of advancement. We must face the truth, companies have no desire to put new wine in old bottles and rightfully so.

    • Fishdrivel says:

      You are so wrong. I am a lifetime learner and constantly upgrading my skills. Employers have noticed that I am always top in my classes. I do not agree at all with “learning more slowly” I also work harder and longer than my younger counterparts. I am a supervisor and motivational leaders are never out of date! I respectfully suggest you change with the “changing world” or you will become the dinosaur you berate so disrespectfully!

    • Concerned says:

      I respectfully say you off your rocker. Older people have a better capacity for learning than their younger counterparts. I myself attended college from 2005 to 2007 at over 50 years young. I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a 3.99/4.00 gpa. I do agree it is hard to find work, when younger people have the same degrees but I will keep plugging away.

  2. David says:

    Its great to see veterans helping veterans. There are many federal
    job opportunies out there if you look for them. Veterans qualify for many
    of those positions. If you are combat wounded, you can get ten points,
    depending on your disability. You can points if you were not wounded
    depending on your dates of service and where you were deployed. is a good site and it explains everything pretty
    clearly. You can get points for certain medals etc.

    • Linville Hawthorne says:

      It is really difficult to secure employment as an older vet. Having previously served as an employment specialist with the veterans benefits administration, I placed numerous vets in good paying jobs, but after leaving the VBA, I attempted to obtain federal employment as a vocational rehabilitation specialist near my home town, unfortunately the job I applied for was given to a non-vet. This would not have bothered me if this position had been given to a vet, but a non vet, what's with this? Discrimination is rampant in the employment arena. In essence, even though I am a vietnam era veteran, the system is flawed. Oh, by the way, I was even told that I was not a veteran in one instance while applying for a position as a readjustment counseling therapist at a vet center in North Carolina. I realize veterans need help, but some of the personnel representatives I've run inot desperately need help also.

  3. edz says:

    Being receptive to change, obtain computer training and adapt to being a lifetime learner goes a long in motivating oneself to keep on going-pray and connect to resources around you!. Good luck and god speed, fellow veterans

  4. Russ says:

    Autozone does not age discriminate

    • joe mann says:

      bullshit! that's a lie,i'am an oldermarine vet in very good shape who out works many younger employees,yet I've applied numroeuous times in defferent cities for a full or part time driving jobs with no luck._even though they were advertising for don't think people are stupid.i like to older folks boycott those businesses that discriminate!_

  5. Linville Hawthorne says:

    Maybe older vets like myself could secure employment if the new bill allowing vets 35 to 60 years of age did not discriminate against us, but on the other hand give us an opportunity to secure additional training in order to secure employment of a desired nature.

  6. Linville Hawthorne says:

    Vets could do a lot to help vets, but unfortunately a lot of people in positions to assist vets are not very receptive to the plight of veterans. A lot of them are just there for the paycheck. I look at USAJOBS constantly, even applied for a few jobs utilizing this system, but I'll bet you my "grey" hair that job offers will be extremely limited due to the stigma of being a vietnam era veteran.

    • vietnam veteran says:

      apply for social security disability, and get a good v.a. attorney for benefits

    • Vietnam Veteran says:

      DAV charity organization helps all vets with disabilies specifically purple heart veterans

  7. Linville Hawthorne says:

    I love this website. It affords me the opportunity to interface with veterans from all walks of life. I don't know many vets I can reach using the mode of communication but at least it gives me the opportunity to express myself when it comes to how vets are treated.

  8. Linville Hawthorne says:

    Just for the record, while employed as an employment specialist with the VBA, I placed/secured more employment opportunities for veterans than did my federal contracting counterparts. I placed veterans who had been in the system for two or more years in areas of substantial employment. While my counterparts were receiving hefty paychecks, I was the one placing veterans in jobs. I guess, since I was more motivated to secure employment for veterans, and the fact that I enjoyed providing this service to veterans I excelled in this arena. The irony of my story is; if you shine to brightly, even though it's for a worthy cause, there is someone who will always attempt to tarnish your reputation. As vets we gave our all, some gave more than others and that is why we should not neglect our veterans but do as much as we possible as we can do to enhance their lives. On this note, I would like to leave you with this thought, Veterans unite, the movement has begun.

    • vIETNAM vETERAN says:


  9. Steve says:

    I have found it VERY difficult to find a new job. I have well over 20 years experience in the legal field and I ama Vet over 50. I have gone to interview after interview with the right look (power suit), writing samples, company research, all of it. I am finding 2 things – age discrimination and the fact that they can get somebody fresh out of a school who will take much less pay than I will. So, unfortunately, in some fields experience means little to nothing.

    • Mary says:

      Hi Steve, I just read your posting from almost 1 year ago. I am curious about your location. And, did you finally secure employment in the legal field since your writing? I am in CO and experiencing a similar situation; trying to get back into the legal field is a tough one. Hope to hear back from you. Mary

  10. John says:

    Even our own federal government job discriminates against age veterans especially the VA

  11. usmc says:

    I.m a viet nam vet. and I worked 40 yrs. at management and saved each co. 250,000 each yr. Started up 3 plants in automotive and still got the boot because I make too much money. Also I'm disabled. Sometimes I am sorry I served this disrespectfull country.Now you have to fight the people who never served and don't have clue.I and other older vets. will take our expertises and knowledge and go fishing and read about how screwed up things are. We made America strong and this the thanks we get. Hang in there and know who you are and what you have accomplished.

    • 69-71 Nam Vet says:

      10-4! I'm a disabled 'Nam vet; been unemployed for over two years; I've got TWO Masters degrees, tons of experience, can NOT get a job…, go figure…, got three claims w/the VA; they've had them 15 months; I haven't heard a word from them…, thanks to all th epoliticians for all of your "support" for the 'Nam vetsa…,

  12. salome says:

    Im sorry but if these companies that are denying jobs to vets are receiving funds from the government in any capacity, it needs to stop I am also an older vet Vietname era and gulf war have masters degree inhealthcare and I cant even get a response from employers who were sent resumes to. We need to investigate if receiving any kind of funding it needs to be stopped until they hire vets.

    • jolanta says:

      I agree with you, since i am too, experiencing similar situation. And what is even more sad, is the fact that the VA Hospital in Phoenix, AZ would rather hire non Vet, than a Vet. I tried to secure a job with them since 2006, and so far i am not able to. Yet, i have college degree, and many years of experience, which means absolutely a big "0" in their eyes. So how can we help Veterans, when organizations such the VA itself, do not care for the Veterans at all.Jolanta