Employers and hiring managers have to be educated on the skills and behaviors veterans learned and practiced in the service. In order to combat these pre-conceived notions, veterans need to identify, highlight and convert for employers those skills/behaviors that the military fosters and that are important to success in the workplace.
Career Transition Timeline for Veterans
Veterans need to take specific steps before exiting the military in order to secure a job in the civilian workforce.
One Year Prior to Leaving the Service
Servicemen and women should create social media profiles to connect with old friends, potential employers and businesses at least a year before separation.
A recent report stated that nearly 80 percent of jobs are shared on social networks, such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, and most people will land a position through networking. Job seekers who are not active in social media are missing out on opportunities not only to find job postings, but also to introduce themselves to potential employers and recruiters. By building your social networks before exiting the military, connections can be used closer to separation to find a job. No time is too early to start and grow networks.
A year out, think about and identify those behaviors and skills specifically learned in the military that are transferrable to the civilian workforce. Behaviors like integrity and serving others connect with organizations' value statements, and skills like working well under pressure and being a productive member of a team of diverse individuals can directly respond to job responsibilities.
Other general examples might include the ability to function well in both a team oriented and hierarchical culture, to function well in an environment based on accountability and high performance standards and to be a quick learner in a demanding training environment.
In addition, if applicable, specific skills of a technical nature in the individual's MOS should also be highly considered and presented.
Start researching jobs and companies that require these traits learned and practiced in the service, and narrow down to fit interests and technical background.
Start writing a detailed resume based on those defined skills and behaviors. Begin with a summary section that features those particular behaviors and skills that meet the needs of an organization or job opening. In addition, add under each job, rank or responsibility held in the military, a list of accomplishments performed in that job. For example, leaders could say they successfully led a squad of nine individuals, which consistently met its objectives.
Don't forget to check out government resources to see what career guidance they provide and what assistance is in place for continuing education when applying to colleges or certification programs.
Six Months Prior
Develop a network of close acquaintances, including family, friends, former and current work contacts and other veterans, to discuss interests and receive advice. Be prepared to send them a current resume and have clear objectives and questions for discussions. Based on those conversations, ask for additional names of people who could be helpful in the job hunt.
Also, practice interviewing with trusted mentors or coaches who can provide constructive feedback.
Don't forget - continue to build your social networks by engaging in conversations.
Three Months Prior
Once resumes and interviewing skills are up to par, send out resumes and cover letters to employers about three months before leaving the service. If they are sent out too soon, hiring managers will not necessarily want to wait six months for a service member to come home.
In addition to sending out resumes, three months out is a great time to reconnect with contacts on social networks. Send along a resume to connections in networks on LinkedIn and Facebook, asking if they know of any openings or have any other connections that could help in the search process. Follow relevant hashtags on Twitter to find alerts to new job openings and follow Twitter accounts posting jobs for veterans.
If veterans exit the service without a position lined up, hope is not lost. Find the gaps in experience and see where it is possible to learn new skills to meet the needs of organizations or desired qualifications. If needed, seek additional certifications and technical training depending on the industry or field of work being sought. Continue to reach out through social networks and aim to set up in-person networking opportunities and information interviews.