For most veterans, particularly those who have served in combat zones, adjusting back into civilian life after a long stint in the military will take time.
They will need time to process what they’ve experienced and, oftentimes, grieve. Civilian life is clearly disparate from that of a warrior on duty overseas. And when that former soldier seeks to transition back into civilian life, most notably when he or she is pursuing that first job post military, many may experience severe obstacles.
Even when a veteran is ready in body and soul to search for that post-military job, he or she may encounter immediate rejection. Hiring managers generally possess rigid mind sets when it comes to filling their open positions, demanding equally rigid skill sets, no matter who is applying to them.
How, then, do ex-military candidates overcome their unique challenges? Here are five realistic suggestions on how to beat those challenges and attain a civilian job.
1. Your military skills don’t apply to civilian life
Identify your transferable skills and credentials. While many skills acquired in the military seem highly specialized and inconsequential to civilian life, keep in mind that those skills and experiences are relevant and should be incorporated into your resume.
You learned how to operate, and to use successfully complex machinery, right? You also learned how to lead teams and to follow through on assignments — some of which were life and death situations. Plus, you learned how to solve problems quickly and creatively. So, why not include those things in your resume?
Security clearances, which many veterans hold, can be extremely valuable credentials for defense or security-related jobs, both in the federal government and in firms that contract with the government.
2. Your job skills don’t exactly match our job description
Hiring managers typically seek candidates that have done the exact job before, or at least possess most of the skills that closely match the job description. The transitioning military candidate, on the other hand, will more likely not have done that exact job before — at least not in recent history — though he or she may have done something similar in the past. As such, he or she has the potential to offer a lot of qualities a company wants: Well-honed leadership skills as well as the ability to learn rapidly, to assimilate and to grow.
3. There are gaps in your resume (because of your military service)
Create a functional resume rather than a chronological one. Although hiring managers usually prefer chronological resumes, it may be more advantageous to keep the focus on your skills, achievements and successes rather than on the specific dates of your employment. Use headings such as, “marketing experience,” “sales successes,” or “benchmarks met,” and then list your achievements accordingly.
Also, update your skills before you start your job search. Truthfully enhance your resume a few months before beginning your job search, to both fill in any gaps in your work history as well as to enrich your experience. Good ways to do this would be to volunteer, acquire an internship or take a class — online or at a local community college. Any of the above will help to kick-start your resume and your life.
4. Getting in front of the right people
Not always an easy task, but this is where a top-notch recruiter can not only be an asset to you but can also become your new best friend! Recruiters typically deal directly with hiring managers, so your resume will likely end up in the hands of the decision makers. Even if recruiters must first go through the HR department, they have developed relationships with key HR staff and know that resumes won’t end up lost or deleted from email queues. This is the first step to getting your foot in the door!
5. Impatience with the re-assimilation process
Being patient with yourself as your transition to civilian life will take time and you may experience stumbling blocks along the way. Injuries and physical limitations may also add additional challenges affecting your self-image. There is a good deal of transitional assistance available from not only the armed services but also from federal, state and local governments. Additionally, nonprofit organizations, and specific veteran’s organizations offer assistance in the re-assimilation process.
Keep an open mind and be open to different opportunities, as those who narrowly limit themselves to only certain types of jobs often pass up on perfectly good options. If necessary, take a job that may not be exactly what you want at the present time, but consider it a stepping stone to attaining your dream job eventually.
Don’t limit your exposure to opportunities only within your geographic area. Expand your horizons and if you're not tied down to a particular location, search for jobs in other areas of the country. If you have some flexibility in relocation, do it! Casting a wider net into new geographic areas will certainly open up all types of possibilities.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps