Whether you served for four years or twenty-four years, transitioning from the military to the civilian world is often an exciting yet stressful time. Many service members approach the end of their contract or retirement with a sense of pride, accomplishment, and excitement.
Then, the big question: “What next”? This question and the series of questions that may follow often bring up feelings of apprehension, anxiety, or even fear of the unknown. Losing military pay, benefits, and job security can place a lot of stress on service members and their families.
Fortunately, the skills that the military requires – resiliency, adaptability, and thinking outside the box – are major contributing factors to navigating the transition period.
With some planning and preparation, service members can take control of their transition process and set themselves up for a successful civilian career.
How To Find a Job as a Veteran
Identify Areas of Expertise, Skill Sets, and Passions
The initial step in preparing for civilian employment is to identify what you’re good at. What are your areas of expertise? Perhaps you are a skilled electrician, tax accountant, or physician assistant.
Make a list and write down your major skill sets and what you specialize in. Identify transferable skills that you acquired from experience in the military such as project management, leadership, or logistics coordination. What are you passionate about? Do you love working with people? Do you enjoy working with your hands? Perhaps you want to continue doing what you did in the military, or maybe you want to try something completely new.
Using a tool like Military Skills Translator from Military.com can provide a list of top skills based on branch of service and military job title as well as civilian job equivalents.
Examine your new living and financial situation post-military. Are you part of a dual-income family or will you be a sole financial provider?
Military banking institutions like USAA and Navy Federal Credit Union have financial advisors who can help map out your financial needs and determine income requirements to support your current lifestyle and expenses.
When looking for jobs, having a minimum salary and benefits requirement can help you narrow down options. What benefits are an absolute must-have? Perks like tuition reimbursement, stock options, and paid vacation should be considered, but it helps to have a bottom-line requirement based on individual and family needs.
Consider additional factors like child care, work schedule needs, or commuting time.
Research Job Markets and Hiring Trends
Conduct some preliminary research on your current area or the area where you’ll be relocating to. What are the major companies or industries in that area? Who is hiring and what are they hiring for?
Having a solid understanding of the market is a critical factor in any job search. Websites like Glassdoor.com are a great resource to research companies and compare salaries.
You may discover that there are plenty of opportunities within your general search area or you may find that you need to extend the search to other cities or states to find a preferred type of work.
Identify Job Requirements
Now that you have a solid understanding of your skills, financial and family needs, and the job market where you’ll be searching, it’s time to identify job requirements. This can include years of experience, academic degrees, certifications, and licenses. Requirements may vary by state and even by company which is why this research is so critical.
Conduct targeted job searches to look at the requirements for several sample job postings that you’re interested in. What are the hard requirements and preferred skill sets? Look beyond the minimum requirements and consider what will help you stand out among other candidates.
Craft a Professional Resume
Resume writing is a daunting task for any job seeker, but transitioning service members face the unique challenge of translating military experience to the civilian sector.
This involves relating military skills to civilian jobs, spelling out commonly used acronyms, and using verbiage that civilian hiring managers will understand.
There is a lot of critical experience that can be lost in translation so it’s important to understand who the audience will be. Assume that the civilian hiring manager has no knowledge of military rank structure or occupational specialties. This will minimize the potential for critical experience to be lost in translation.
Consider working with a career and transition assistance program like Hire Heroes USA for personalized resume writing assistance and job search support.
Many sites will allow you to upload a copy of your resume for employers and recruiters to view. Keep track of what you’re applying for – note the company, job title, job listing number or link, closing date for the posting, and any contact information that is listed for future reference and follow-up.
Tailor the resume and cover letter for each position you apply for. Be strategic in your approach and avoid sending out general resumes to as many positions as possible; although easier upfront, this method is less likely to yield positive results. You may want to consider working with a headhunter or staffing agency to receive leads or placement opportunities.
ADDITIONAL JOB SEARCH TIPS
Network, Network, Network
Networking is an essential part of any successful job search. Begin with established networks: coworkers, social groups, clubs, and even family members and friends. Let people know you’re preparing for a career change and will be actively seeking employment.
Expand your network using social media sites like LinkedIn to reach valuable connections at specific companies or in your targeted industry. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is professional and all of the information is up-to-date before reaching out to potential contacts. Ask for recommendations, advice, and any tips they can provide or people they can introduce you to.
Attend Job Fairs, Hiring Events, and Professional Development Seminars
Attending fairs and events provides an opportunity to connect with employers and contacts in person. Even in today’s digital age, face-to-face interaction is more likely to leave a lasting impression than sending an email or connecting on social media.
Put your best foot forward. Dress in business professional attire and come prepared with copies of your resume and business cards if you have them.
Don’t be shy! Introduce yourself to employers and use the time to meet people who you can add to your network. Organizations like FourBlock provide excellent professional development and networking opportunities.
Internships, fellowships, and training programs are an excellent way to learn more about a company and gain valuable experience. Consider paid and unpaid internships as a way to network within organizations and learn additional skill sets. This is an excellent way to get your foot in the door and will likely open up opportunities in a specific company or industry.
The job search is often described as a job in and of itself. Research, resume writing, networking, and job searching takes time, but the planning and hard work will pay off. Stay positive and look at every experience as a learning opportunity.
Every resume revision is a chance to practice resume tailoring. Every interview is an opportunity to connect with employers and get more comfortable answering interview questions. Commit to the process and remain consistent in your job search efforts.
It’s easy to get discouraged, but remind yourself that you have set yourself up for success and it’s only a matter of time before you receive that official job offer.