The military is a tough act to follow and finding the right job takes effort and focus. And just like life in the fleet, having a battle buddy or a wingman to help get it right is important. So to get you thinking right, here are 13 tips from transition experts, recruiters whose job is to get you a job.
1. Approach the job like long-term relationship, not a rebound
The question I most often am asked is “How much am I going to make?”. That question is a natural reaction because people are nervous when transitioning, but statistically many leave their first transition job within nine months because they jumped at the first dollar amount that met their requirements. To avoid this, you need to be thinking long-term. Look deeper than the paycheck and ask about a company’s growth potential. Research their culture and values. Where you start within a company is not where you’re going to finish.
Don’t self-select out of job descriptions that say you must have corporate experience or degree. Look for ways to circumvent or meet those requirements. The military is one of the largest corporations in America, and you worked for it. If a job requires a master’s degree, start pursing your masters and indicate that on your resume.
LinkedIn offers premium membership to veterans so you can find geo-specific job opportunities and obtain certifications. You can find a list of veteran friendly companies on Hiring our Heroes’ website.
— Charles “Chuck” Hodges, Hiring our Heroes, Senior Director for Events and Programs
2. Use your spouse as an asset
Greatest assets a transitioning service member has is their military spouse. So when they are in their final stages of transition, if we are empowering spouses with jobs and employment, it allows the service member to be more selective in their selection and oftentimes a spouse has flexibility – if they need to move ahead to wherever they have decided to retire (from the military) to, they have that option and flexibility.
Military, military spouses and veterans can sign up for a free account at Hiring Our Heroes for resume building tools, job listings, and more.
— Elizabeth O’Brien, Hiring Our Heroes, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Director of Military Spouse Program
3. Leverage your military status
Be confident. Military applicants hold a stronger position in the hiring process than ever before. You’re a valuable asset. There are companies that offer mentorship programs for transitioning servicemen and women. They are prepared to assist you in you fine-tuning your resume and can help you tell your story in civilian terms. Start identifying those companies six months before you transition, they will want to see a first draft of your resume, so be ready for that.
Military, military spouses and veterans looking for a job in the transportation industry can check out Trucking Track.
— Stan Hampton, VP Driver Personnel, J.B. Hunt Transport
(Click here to find career opportunities at JB Hunt.)
4. Tailor your resume for each submission
A common mistake that veterans make is they will generate a generic resume that applies to everything and they use they same resume for every job they apply for. Instead, take your time, read the job description and really highlight your skills as it relates to that role that they are applying to.
— Michael A. Alexander, Military Recruiting and Engagement Lead, Comcast NBCUniversal
Click here to find career opportunities at Comcast NBCUniversal.)
5. Answer interview questions like a S.T.A.R.
Most organizations tend to use behavioral based interview questions. When answering your interviewer’s questions, try to use the ‘S.T.A.R.’ format: Situation, Task, Action and Result. This will help differentiate yourself from other candidates.
— Afsheen Saatchi, Military Recruiter, Starbucks
(Click here to find career opportunities at Starbucks.)
6. Spouses, own the gap in your resume
I encourage military spouses to indicate somewhere on their resume that they are a military spouse. Some are nervous to do that because they think companies may discriminate against them, but I tell them – you don’t want to work for a company with that kind of culture anyway. There are companies that do look out for military spouse resumes, and will overlook those gaps and take their volunteer experience into consideration.
— Lauren Bacon, Hilton Worldwide, Manager of Military Programs
(Check this site to find military spouse friendly companies: MSEP Jobs.)
7. Look for a company that provides a path
You need a process that allows you to transition and progress. Many companies are inviting veterans to apply, but make sure they are able to do more than just hire you. When you’re speaking with company representatives be looking for them to provide a path for you – a detailed timeline that provides a clear sequence to a meaningful career. Avoid companies that are unable or unwilling to do this.
— Dave Harrison, Military Program Management, J. B. Hunt Transport
(Click here to find career opportunities at JB Hunt.)
8. Find a career coach
As a recruiter, many approach me a job fairs and say: “Here’s my resume, what do you have?” Transition is a time where military service members have a choice to make. They can work for the government or get defense contracting job, or move to an entirely different industry, at which point they don’t have the expertise to move into a lateral position. It’s good to have a career coach, they can rely on their MOS, and can also reach out to others who have transitioned and begin a dialogue.
Here’s an online resource for transitioning military and veterans to find an industry-specific virtual mentor: ACP AdvisorNet
— Abie Chong, Military and Veteran Recruiter, Hilton Worldwide
9. Start the application process a year before you get out
Understand no employer will wait for you, but the more you apply, the more practice you get, and the more confident you will become. You may even get a few pre-screening interviews, do them for practice, it will take out the nerves out of the whole ordeal. Applying for jobs sooner than later will also help you gather information on what skills are needed in the field you’re looking to transition to, and will give you ideas on how to fine-tune your resume.
Jonathan Morales, Production Standards Training Specialist, Lufthansa Technik
(Click here to find career opportunities within Lufthansa Technik.)
10. Explore industries you may never have considered
Expose yourself to different industries, because you may have a preconception about a particular industry and when you delve into it, you may be surprised on how many different career paths and jobs there are. For instance, running a hotel is like running an Army base where all different departments that come together to make it operational. Military personnel can really translate what they do currently into any operations position when they transition. It’s all logistics.
If you’re about to transition or transitioning watch: Reinventing Michael Banks
— Melissa Stirling, Director of Military Programs, Hilton Worldwide
11. Lead with your leadership experience
Think beyond your MOS, AFSC, or whatever. Whether you’re getting out after two years or a thirty-five year career, be able to break down how you lead and how you manage. For example, if you’re a cook, explain what you do in that role because recruiters who don’t have military experience may not know what that job really entails – you handle food safety, quality control, acquisitions, and leadership management of a time-pressed, no-fail team. Military are able to plan and analyze future threats and opportunities, showcase that on your resume and talk about it in interviews.
Turn your military skills into a certificate: Institute for Veterans and Military Families
— Dave Gualin, Director, Military Veteran Affairs, Comcast NBCUniversal
(Click here to find career opportunities at Comcast NBCUniversal.)
12. Focus on companies that have committed to hiring veterans
There are companies who have committed to hiring a certain number of veterans a year, so make sure your service is in the objective (top section) of your resume so you don’t get lost in the shuffle.
— Grant Johnston, VP Business Development, Airsteams Renewables, Inc.
(Click here to find career opportunities at Airstreams Renewables.)
13. Take the time today to plan for tomorrow
You 16 hours or more a day, but planning for your transition is essential in ensuring your success. As you get closer to retirement from the service, let your friends and family know that you’re looking, they can be a great asset for you. Set a timer for thirty minutes a day to focus on what you’re going to do when you get out of the military. Purpose to apply for one job a day.
Jeff Duff, President, Airstreams Renewables, Inc.
14. Remember, you’re not alone
There are resources out there for all the challenges you face during your transition and beyond. Find them and don’t be afraid to call on them. For example, the American Legion is the nation’s largest veteran’s organization and has a presence in each community with over 14,000 posts across the country. If you’re about to transition into a new community, find the post nearest to where you will be and let them know you’re coming. They are there to help. We are more than a banquet hall, we are a community resource.
— Verna Jones, Executive Director, American Legion
(Click here to find career opportunities and other resources through the American Legion.)