There is a harsh reality for veterans when they leave the military and go out into the civilian workforce — many employers don’t value military service.
It’s just the way it is folks. I’ve heard this from hiring managers. It’s not that they’re prejudice against veterans it’s just that many are dumb about what you guys do beyond marching and carrying guns.
A survey released yesterday by CareerBuilder.com found that one in five vets think their biggest hurdle to landing a job “is employers’ inability to understand how military skills can fulfill qualifications for civilian positions.”
So who do you think is going to educate these folks about what veterans have done? I’ve written about the topic and always tout the experience to HR managers, but I’m not there with you guys and gals at the interview table, or when you’re crafting your cover letter.
That means veterans have to step up to the plate and show everybody how great they are, and how their experience would fit a particular job.
I know, this is easier said than done, but just practicing a mock interview with a spouse, or buddy will help you immensely. One veteran I interviewed a while back told me he took a basic job coaching class that included interview skills training and it paid off with a good job. You can hire someone to do this or you can connect with a host of veterans assistance agencies in the U.S. and get help for free.
There are government run sites to help ex military personnel find jobs and there are also independent sites for networking and job postings. Here are a few to check out: www.military.com; www.weservetoether.com; www.togetherweserved.com; www.m4l.com; vetfriends.com; gijobs.net. Also use any help the government provides. Most bases offer transition services for ex G.I.s, so go back to Uncle Sam and find out what you’re eligible for.
While I stress the importance of showing a hiring manager the merits of your service, that doesn’t mean you should show up for an interview with your uniform on and saluting everyone in sight.
You have to learn how to strike a balance.
Here are some general tips that may help:
* Get rid of the military jargon on your resume and try to keep it to one page long. Don’t include every job you held before the military and every post you had while serving. Pick out four or five key jobs and leave the rest out. When detailing the jobs you held in the military try to use words a civilian can understand. Just saying you were a Chief Petty Officer is going to go right over the head of most folks. Detail what that job included, administrative duties, project management, etc.
* Try to keep the “Yes Sirs” at bay during the interview. You’re just a regular guy or gal now and hiring managers are going to want to know you can make the transition from war to the workplace easily.
* Use your contacts in the military until you’ve exhausted them. Many of your fellow soldiers or commanders may now be in the civilian workforce and there’s nothing wrong with sending them an email or calling them if they work for a company you’d like to consider, or could just act as mentors as you navigate the job-seeking process.
* You have to make sure the hiring manager understands the skills you can bring to the job. Talk about a specific assignment that shows how you were able to map out a plan and then execute it. Keep code names for military operations, or model numbers of helicopters or tanks to yourself.
* Ex-military folks may have to pay some dues before they find just the right job. Many men and women go into service without getting a college degree and without substantial job experience, so just like everyone else, you may have to make some job concessions. That means possibly taking a short-term internship to learn the ropes. Also consider making a deal with an employer who is interested in you but just isn’t quite sure you’ll be able to make the transition into the regular workforce, advises Brian Drum, a consultant who also writes a monthly career column for military.com. Offer to do the job for a few months with no strings attached, and put it in writing if the hiring manager is more comfortable with that, he adds.
* He also suggests going through a temporary staffing agency. Many companies often hire temps as full time employee, he adds, when they see an individual can get the job done.
It’s all about staying positive and realizing that you face a tough battle ahead finding a job in this economy. But it will happen, I promise. Don’t give up and lock up negativity in your foot locker for good.
And for all of you hiring managers, bosses and employees out there in the civilian work world, it’s time to give the men and women who fought for this country a break and realize they have just as much to bring to the table as their non-military counterparts.