Veterans have a tough time in the job market. Before I took the entrepreneurial plunge, as a veteran I subjected myself to the competitive hiring process in several arenas — both private sector and federal — and I came out with a healthy balance of offers, rejections, confidence, and self-doubt.
Along the way, I learned a lot about job searching as a veteran. Use these four tips to help you get your foot in the door.
1. Manage your expectations
Hey veterans, you've served your country. You volunteered to do something that less than 1% of America is currently doing. You made sacrifices along the way, and you may have faced danger while wearing the uniform. But now you're out (or getting out). Although your time serving is something to be proud of, it doesn't mean you rate any kind of special ranking in the civilian hiring process. Temper your expectations to land a job when you get out of the military.
I applied to 15 jobs when I got out of the active duty component. I had an active clearance, and came from a particularly unique field in defense. I have a degree. I was accepted into a selective program for graduate studies. And yet, of those 15 jobs, three got back to me. The other 12? Nothing — not even an automated "not interested" email.
Two takeaways here
- Adopting the mindset that you're no more qualified for a job than your civilian counterparts applying for the same will help keep you grounded through the process.
- Understand that "veteran" on your resume isn't an automatic pass GO collect $200 get JOB. Then when you get turned down (or just straight-up ghosted), you'll be better equipped to dust yourself off and look elsewhere
2. Demilitarize yourself, but don't go native.
Civilians aren't nearly as rigid as most service members (or veterans, for that matter). They don't say "rah" or "hooah," and they don't use "good to go" as a blanket descriptor for all things positive and/or acknowledgment of a task (perhaps I'm specifically talking to my fellow Marines here). Civilians don't walk down the halls at work with a big chaw in and they certainly don't have high and tights. Let your hair down, practice civilian-speak, and generally just loosen up.
Don't go native! We all know someone who got out and promptly threw away all of their shaving gear and started a massive bonfire with all of the "Free Hot Lather Shave" coupons from the barber shop (lady veterans, I don't mean to sound one-sided here, but I can't honestly speak to the specifics of "going native," from a woman's perspective). So, don't give a potential employer a reason to doubt you based off looks alone (yes, they can do that, and they will). You can grow your hair long, and heck, even a beard, and still look presentable. Always be presentable. Keep your hair tamed. Without going down the GQ men's grooming rabbit hole, please trim your beard. (Don't follow the jaw line! You're killin' me, fellas)
3. Make a great LinkedIn and resume
LinkedIn is a critical tool for both the job seeker and the employer. For you, veterans, it's an easy way to make yourself and your achievements presentable to a large network. Plus, it's free.
Your resume and LinkedIn should be relatively similar in content, if not identical. Mainly, ensure that they don't conflict each other. Send your resume to friends and family, especially those who have either been through this process before or have hired people, and ask for feedback. Keep it concise; demonstrate your ability to communicate in one page. Your resume is a quick snapshot to a prospective employer, and it's usually one of the first things they see. Don't make a bad first impression!
4. Develop a solid elevator pitch.
In 30 seconds, can you tell me what is the value proposition of you? In other words, in 30 seconds, who are you, what defines you, and what would be the benefit to the employer if they hired you? In other words, if you were a product, explain in 30 seconds why people should want to buy you. As with just about anything else today, there are resources aplenty for developing a great pitch — go find a few.
Let's wrap it up. You're looking for a job or you anticipate the need to in the near future:
- Don't expect to get hired, but be confident and don't get discouraged
- Be proud of the veteran you are (or are soon to be), but make attempts to assimilate into civilian culture
- LinkedIn, resume — make them count
- Quality, 30-second elevator pitch.
Give these things a try, it can't hurt. For more help in all things job searching, visit MyPerfectResume.
Gregory J. Nolan is the CEO/co-founder of G2 Intelligence Solutions, a consulting company. Prior to this, Greg was an active duty Marine intelligence officer. To learn more about Greg and his business, find him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/gjnolan and visit his company's website at www.g2intelligencesolutions.com.