Nearly 50% of veterans reported not having a job lined up when they left the military, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center report. But career experts believe taking proactive steps can help ease the transition in the military-civilian divide.
1. Start early
Doing your homework and starting a job search early can ease the transition. Research and understand the specific requirements for the openings you’re interested in.
“Some jobs require additional certificates or degrees and some do not,” said Sheri Gross, manager of Veterans Services at the College of DuPage, a community college outside of Chicago. “It’s important to research the options and requirements of different paths to reach your desired position.”
2. Translate your experience
A good tool to refer to is a military-to-civilian occupation translator, which can help you match your military skills and experience to civilian occupations, says Kimberly Stiener-Murphy, senior regional director for global talent solutions firm Robert Half.
Organizations like the Disabled Veterans National Foundation provide tools online to aid service members.
3. Consider a career assessment
Those who might be unsure of their next career path can consider an assessment to narrow the options, according to Gross, who said community colleges also provide guidance through career services departments. Several career assessment tools can also be found online through veterans-assistance organizations. Columbia Southern University compiled a list through the Disabled Veterans National Foundation.
4. Talk with friends
Stiener-Murphy said it’s important to network with fellow veterans who are in companies that could be of interest.
“Veterans want to help veterans,” Stiener-Murphy said. “So connecting with someone on LinkedIn or joining a veterans networking group can be tremendous help.”
5. Seek help
“They help veterans network, hone their skills and learn how to best market themselves,” Gross said.
6. Fine-tune your resume
Highlight transferable skills and experience on your resume.
“Play up your pertinent technical expertise,” said Stiener-Murphy, but don’t forget to note previous leadership roles, as well as in-demand soft skills such as empathy, adaptability or an entrepreneurial mindset.
Stiener-Murphy also cautions veterans to make sure their resume is easy to understand.
“Civilian employers may not be familiar with military terminology so it’s a good idea to spell out acronyms,” she said.
7. Look for veteran hiring programs
Many employers, including Walmart, Deloitte and the United States Postal Service, want to hire veterans. USPS, for instance, employs nearly 100,000 veterans.
“Choosing a company or organization that values veterans and views them as assets to the community is a great place to start,” Gross said.
8. Job fairs
Job fairs can be a great tool even if you are not yet looking for a job, Gross said. It provides a chance to meet recruiters face-to-face and hone the networking and social/people skills that will help you prepare for interviews and feel more confident.
9. Be patient
In today’s job market, finding a good position can take time, according to Stiener-Murphy.
“Keep in mind that the duration of a search is no reflection on your personality or skills; many people job hunt for some time before landing a position,” she said.