The Harvard Business Plan Competition's Answer To Veteran Unemployment

The job market is bad, and that's especially true for veterans.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, young men returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have one of the highest unemployment rates in America, a jobless rate of nearly 25%. That's about three times the national unemployment rate of 8.2%. "These stats aren't outliers," Forbes Magazine recently pointed out. "Last year, the unemployment number for new vets in New York was 16.7%; in the nation as a whole, it was 12.1%."

Why? Our service members are disciplined, hard working, and fearless. They receive unparalleled training, operate in the most stressful situations and use state-of-the art equipment. Why are the nation's best trained, most qualified applicants having the worst luck finding work?

For starters, our military is good at creating soldiers, not turning them back into civilians. Consider this statistic: The military spends more than ten weeks turning someone into a soldier, but fewer than ten hours turning them back into a civilian. When it comes to returning to civilian life, the military doesn't teach new veterans how to market their jobs skills or network in the industries that match their experience. And the little time that is spent on job training is often wasted on bureaucratic slideshows.

Last month, President Obama announced "a major overhaul of the military's much-derided program to help veterans make the transition from the military to work or school." One of the administration's big changes was to reduce the number of slides in the military's PowerPoint presentation on returning to the civilian workforce. Instead of 187, it's now 49.

"I don't know that anybody has an answer," Secretary of Veteran Affairs Eric Shinseki, a retired four-star Army General, bluntly told NPR, when asked why the veteran unemployment rate was so high. "If you've got, you know, a direction to point me in, we'll go find out."

Mr. Secretary, meet RallyPoint. A secure online platform that allows military professionals to build their resumes and leverage their professional networks before they leave the service. It's a solution that we've developed based on our time in the military and experience at Harvard Business School. We are introducing best practices from the private sector to the military community, and believe that RallyPoint will do for the military what LinkedIn has done for business.

RallyPoint gives military professionals something they've never had before: the chance to take control of their careers both within the military and as they transition to the civilian work force. That's what makes private, civilian networking platforms so successful. RallyPoint will replicate that model and allow service members to:

  • Claim their professional online military identity
  • Grow a professional network across the military
  • Bring focus to their military career
  • Discover the best job opportunities within the military
  • Track career updates of military peers and units in real time
  • Lock in the perfect civilian job long before they transition

RallyPoint does all of this via a highly-secure, gated community that is only accessible to military professionals within the active duty and reserves, as well as those in pre-commissioning programs.

From our experiences in the service, we know that a servicemember's skill sets are often not aligned with their preferences, or with the duty positions to which they are assigned.. Lack of meritocracy, transparency, and career development opportunities are universal pain points that transcend all military service branches. RallyPoint creates unprecedented career transparency for military professionals -- and for those who are interested in their skills -- both inside and outside the military.

For the former, it's an obvious application -- a platform offering career networking and transparency for active duty personnel. For the latter, it works like this: military personnel use RallyPoint during the course of their career to build their secure online identity, career preferences, and unique skill sets. Since they engage with the platform during the course of their military career, RallyPoint can effectively translate their experience and preferences into proper civilian terminology and make it easy for employers to identify the right military talent for their hiring needs. RallyPoint therefore addresses veteran unemployment by going to the root of the problem: employment upon initial transition to the civilian work force.

As RallyPoint members build their professional military experience on RallyPoint, employers will be able to search and find military personnel exiting the service that match their employment needs. For example, an employer may search for somebody with an undergraduate degree in Nuclear Engineering and experience on a ship, somebody with experience working as a helicopter mechanic, or somebody with exceptional leadership experience who is willing to relocate to where the employer is.

First though, military professionals are able to leverage RallyPoint to look for opportunities within the military itself, and seek greater transparency and career fulfillment one in uniform. RallyPoint help military professionals discover opportunities within their own ranks, connect with their colleagues, and empower them with information and transparency to advance their own career. In this sense, military personnel are building their credentials in preparation for their inevitable career transition, even without any additional effort. RallyPoint is therefore solving two problems by creating both an easy-to-use professional network within the military, as well as the most technologically advanced employer-to-servicemember matching network in the country.

The nation's abysmal veteran unemployment can be solved. But, we need an online platform that connects and empowers service members while they're still in the military, not a shorter PowerPoint presentation. is entering into private testing on August 1, 2012.

Yinon Weiss and Aaron Kletzing are the co-founders of RallyPoint. Weiss, a 13 year veteran of the Marine Corps and Army Special Forces, holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. Kletzing, who spent five years in the Army, is a survivor of Iraq-related cancer. He's foregoing his final year at Harvard Business School to bring RallyPoint to the military.