7 Job-Hunting Tips for Transitioning Veterans

Veterans transitioning to civilian life can have a tough time finding employment. Here are some tips to make the search easier.

January 24, 2012 (Fort Stewart Patch) – Veterans returning home from abroad and transitioning to civilian life are likely to encounter a multitude of challenges as they search for new employment. In addition to facing high unemployment, the skills and experience they gained in the military may not match the open jobs companies have available in their hometown.

If you’re a returning vet, here are a few things you can do to facilitate the transition:

1. Create a job search plan

Assess your interest and capabilities, and determine what type of work you would like to do. Then make a list of companies in your local area that might hire someone with your background and decide which ones you want to work for.

2. Exploit your experience

Once you have determined the type of position you want, tailor your resume to mirror the position description and start applying for jobs. Your resume should provide recruiters and hiring managers with a clear picture of how the capabilities and accomplishments you developed in the military relate to this job. Emphasize the experience you have gained in teamwork, leadership, resourcefulness, and the other areas that are strengthened through military service.  

If you have ever been stuck and held back by writer’s block while trying to create your resume, you know how tempting it is to use a resume template. Using a resume template, you may reason, will lead you in including all the crucial details in your career background. Further, a resume template will help you in creating a resume that is appropriately formatted and designed, and looks professional. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth than these assumptions.

Resume templates are inflexible, one-size-fits-all formats. You, on the other hand, are a one-of-a-kind individual with incomparable experience and value to bring to your next employer. Resume templates force you to present your experience in an unbending format that makes every candidate look just like every other candidate. Is that your goal in a job search? Or is it better to promote yourself and your professional capabilities in a way that helps you to stand out to recruiters as an applicant who has distinguishing abilities and will produce benefits for the hiring company in a way that all your competitors in the job market will not.

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3. Build your network before you return home

Utilize LinkedIn, which is a business related social media website that is used for networking. And start connecting with former veterans who have vocational backgrounds and interests similar to yours. Exchange job-hunting information with them, and expand your list of companies you would like to work for. You can also buy likes to explore your network on social media.

4. Use your network to leverage your brand

Once you have formulated your job-search plan and established your network, start reaching out to other veterans, especially those who are employed in your local area, to see if they can give you guidance about your career transition. If they served in the same branch of the military as you, or perhaps even in the same unit, they may be more inclined to help you, because at one time they were in your situation. Try to meet with them in person, when feasible, to facilitate the building of trust and the exchange of information.

Be aware that you may have to network with a lot of people before you are able to get a job. In my role as a recruiter, I once worked with someone whose position was being phased out by his employer. After speaking with approximately ninety people within 3 weeks, he found a new opportunity and was able to stay with the company.

5. Ask for referrals

As you network with people, ask if they know anyone else who can assist you in your job search or if they know anyone who might hire someone with your background. Your goal is to get them to open their network to you.

6. Invest in your future

Now may be the perfect time for you to back to school to further your education, possibly by getting a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. The G.I. Bill is an incredible opportunity, because it will pay for tuition and fees for up to thirty-six months, as long as the costs do not exceed what you would pay for an undergraduate education at the most expensive public, in-state college. This program also covers some of the cost of housing and books.

Colleges and universities value the leadership skills and experience you have gained in the military, which means that your application will most likely receive favorable attention.  And once you graduate, your new degree coupled with your military experience will cause you to stand out relative to other job candidates.

7. Utilize transition programs and groups

To gain a better understanding of what civilian life will be like, take advantage of military transition programs before you are discharged. Many of these programs offer various types of job-search training, such as information about how to market yourself and how to network using social media. Check to see if there are any career fairs or associations in your local area that cater to veterans and attend them to leverage the contacts you make there to build your network.

The transition from military life to civilian life can be challenging, especially in a sour economy. Build your confidence and increase your success by developing a plan, building and exploiting your network, taking advantage of the many programs that are available, and, most of all, persevering.

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