The transition for members of the armed forces ending their service can be challenging, and the job search has its own unique challenges. Here are seven job search strategies for military veterans making a move to the civilian sector after their enlistment.
- Minimize the military speak. Members of the armed services have their own lingo when describing their work. In the United States, approximately 7.3% of all living Americans served in the military; conversely, 92.7% of all living Americans spent zero time in the service. So when writing your resume or in an interview, try to remember that unless you're applying for a job at an organization whose primary customer is the military, it's unlikely the recruiter or hiring manager is going to understand the military terminology.
- Translate your work into readily understandable tasks and responsibilities. When building your resume, think about the elements of your work which can be readily understood by an employer. When describing the work you did on preparing a unit for deployment overseas, for example, it can be beneficial to break down your leadership on specific tasks you performed in the areas of logistics, project management, human resources, and so forth. Or maybe you worked on preparing the technology for that same deployment – detail the types of networks you built, listing specific technologies. These will enhance the readability of the resume and better highlight your skills, and the additional keywords will improve your chances of making it through the employer's applicant tracking system.
- Focus on your leadership skills. There's a significant difference between giving orders and leading. Companies are getting flatter, meaning fewer levels of management and less clear lines of reporting. Employers generally want to hire individuals who have a demonstrated ability to inspire and influence, as well as manage day-to-day tasks. What you've managed is less important than how you've managed, and examples of how you built consensus and worked across organizational lines to achieve results will showcase your ability to thrive in complex environments.
- Readjust your mindset. I'm going to let my friend A.J. Yolofsky, an attorney who made the adjustment from life in the Marine Corps, explain his transition experience. "The transition from military to civilian can be challenging because we military members are used to a different organizational structure and culture than necessarily exists in the civilian world. The military’s hierarchical structure provides a fallback method of getting things done – someone more senior can always “order” a junior to do X. On the civilian side, rank or seniority are sometimes held by people with no formal title or who are technically “junior” in the organization (e.g. executive assistants or other support personnel.) Learning civilian organizational behavior theory can be a way to differentiate yourself from other former military candidates. Some books that are helpful for this are "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," by Stephen Covey; "How to Win Friends and Influence People," by Dale Carnegie; and "The Trusted Advisor," by David Maister. All are on my shelf and have helped me make the transition from Marine to civilian."
- Get to know the job boards. In addition to mainstream job boards such as Monster, CareerBuilder, Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and others, there are boards directed at military veterans such as VetJobs and RecruitMilitary. Many employers specifically want vets due to their connection to the defense industry, or for their work ethic – you'll find them here.
- Remind employers that it can be cost effective to hire you. First, there's a final move benefit which the U.S. military retirees can use to relocate for free anywhere within the United States upon retirement, which can mitigate an employer's concerns about incurring substantial cost to move you (corporate moves can be very expensive). Likewise, employers may be eligible for tax credits for hiring veterans under certain circumstances.
- Know your rights. In the United States, U.S. military veterans enjoy several protections against employment discrimination, including under the the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). A good employment attorney can help you understand your rights under these laws and others.
Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.