by Bianca Strzalkowski
Not all resumes are created equal. Living in the digital era means traditional ways of doing business often remove the face to face interactions needed to effectively market yourself — including when seeking employment.
For veterans exiting the steady paycheck of the military, getting connected to a post-military career is important part of the transition checklist. However, nearly one out of two (53%) separating Post- 9/11 veterans will face a period of unemployment, according to the 2015 Veteran Economic Opportunity Report. In a highly saturated job market, every tool matters and a resume may be the single most important document to connecting you to getting hired.
Avoid common errors
Amy Rossi, Director of Training at Corporate America Supports You (CASY) — a nonprofit organization providing free employment support to military affiliated job-seekers, says they serve approximately 10,000 veterans and military spouses per year. She sees recurring mistakes when reviewing client resumes, such as a lack of focus on a specific career. “The military work environment teaches veterans to adapt and become proficient in performing multiple work functions. This flexibility is a valuable work trait in the civilian sector; however, you first have to make it into the workforce,” she said. “The key to making it into the workforce is to make it past the gatekeepers. Qualifications are the key to having the right content to make it past the gatekeeper.”
CASY’s services include resume review, mock interview prep, job alerts, and professional development. Rossi recommends taking key steps to maximize the success of a resume.
Translate military experience to civilian jargon
Military-affiliated applicants should civilianize a resume with wording an employer can equate to the position they are hiring for. The military is well-known for its use of acronyms, which may have little meaning to the human resources professional reviewing the qualifications.
“The first step is to become aware, think about what you would be doing in a civilian work environment that is similar to what you did in the military. Focus on the planning and logistics involved in a successful execution versus the military operation,” Rossi said. “You have many elements of work that are similar to the civilian workforce, like, running reports, analyzing data, verification of paperwork, tracking projects, training, and the list goes on. Then pretend you are trying to describe those functions to a family member with no military experience; you will naturally simplify and discuss concepts they comprehend.
TIP: Several online resources exist to assist veterans in translating a resume. One such free program is at the Department of Labor: https://www.careerinfonet.org/moc/
Target your resume to the position you are applying for Today’s job market is highly saturated with sometimes thousands of applicants vying for the same position. If you want to make it through, you have to be better than the others applying, Rossi says. Recruiters don’t have hours to spend on a resume, instead they have seconds. By targeting a resume, it helps them quickly identify your potential and ability.
TIP: Employers today greatly value the experience of someone who served in the military. Make sure to clearly define on your resume that you are a veteran.
Use keywords from the job description
In addition to targeting a resume, weave keywords from the job description into your experience. This is especially helpful if the application process is solely online. Recruiters will conduct a keyword search to narrow down the number of applications they have to consider.
Review relevant profiles on LinkedIn
Compare. LinkedIn is one of the most utilized social networking sites for job seekers. If you do not have an account, set one up for free. Use it as a resource to search other professionals in your intended industry. Make sure your resume and profile match theirs.
What about the length?
After devising the content of the resume, it is time to edit it. A first draft will most likely not be the last version, especially if you are going to apply for several different types of jobs. Aside from checking for grammatical errors, the next area to look at is formatting. Rossi adds that contrary to popular belief, there isn’t a specific length a resume should be, but there are some general recommendations to follow.
“If you want to follow the industry standard for a civilian position, stick to 1-2 pages,” she said. “Ultimately, resume length should be based on your job search plan. Common sense says if the job function and industry require 15 years of experience, you are looking at a two-page resume. If it requires two years, you should get your resume down to one page.”
With so many job seekers vying for the same position, the amount of effort a person puts into presenting themselves to employers can determine if they secure a job interview. Because veteran employment has long been a trending topic, government agencies organizations, and installation offices are at the ready to assist in making your post-military efforts successful. The resume is your best chance at making a good first impression.
To sign up for CASY’s free employment support services, create an account online at http://casy.msccn.org/.
—Bianca Strzalkowski is a military spouse and freelance writer who lived in North Carolina