If there is one thing I know after recruiting for over two decades in the private sector and defense industry, it’s that military service members make great hires. Unfortunately, this talent pool is largely overlooked due to a lack of understanding of military culture and its ultimate purpose. To win!
The fact is, service members can contribute a lot more to businesses’ success than those who never served at all. Studies have shown this to be true. But, the biggest challenge facing service members today is articulating their skills and experiences to be seen as viable candidates to individuals who make hiring decisions in the civilian job market. This is why I have dedicated my career to helping service members. So listen up, vets!
There are three civilian ribbons you need to acquire in landing a job in the civilian job market. You need a good resume, you need to cleverly network, and you need to nail the interview. This is your new O-Course!
Your Resume Is Essential:
A resume is still essential even in the age of digital and social media. It’s your professional billboard that highlights what you’ve done, where you’ve been, and what you’ve accomplished. Consider it your new uniform. The patches and medals you earned and adorned will no longer be applicable in the civilian job market. It will no longer speak to your stature. Your experience will all be laid out on a sheet of paper and in your own words. Keep in mind that your military experience is relevant in the private sector, even if the private sector does not clearly see it. There are approximately over 85 percent of military occupations that have a direct civilian counterpart in private industry. Your mission is to unveil your skills and capabilities into civilian speak. But let’s face it; it is easier to wear your resume than write it. Don’t worry too much, though. You will figure it out just like you did when you first joined the military and got your first assignment.
Your resume has to clearly define how you are uniquely qualified for the position you want. Inother words, can you convince a hiring manager that you are a “force-multiplier”? I am sure you received some good information during your transitioning program—not! But here are some additional pointers to get you thinking in the right direction.
- Does your resume start with a clear summary of your skills and qualifications?
- Did you list what you were accountable for, as opposed to what you’ve done?
- Are you clearly illustrating your technical or business acumen? Don’t simply list what you did—convey how you did it and how good you were at it.
- Did you make improvements? Did you increase efficiency or spot glitches?
- Did you save time and money?
- Were you better than your peers in the same role?
That is what I look for when I recruit.
OK, so let’s assume you now understand what a good resume should include. You are now probably worried about a good resume format, right? Formats vary by individual and are not a show stopper in this tight labor market. The format you decide to use is your own. You can use bullet points, use a summary format, or break it all down job by job. Functional or chronological formats do not matter much to me as recruiter. I am too busy trying to find “buzz words” (C++, Java, CAT5, network communications, SQL…) to determine if you are a match for the job I am trying to fill, quickly!
Recruiters on average review resumes anywhere from 20-40 seconds or leave it up to search filters to figure out. They are looking to weed you out. Don’t let them. Your goal is to get weeded in.
Hint: Have you ever thought of converting the medals/ribbons you’ve earned into a bullet point on your resume? It’s something to think about.
A great resource to get you started in drafting up a solid military-to-civilian resume is at
ResumeEngine.org. It is an intuitive resume developer that was created to assist you specifically.
Network to Get Work:
The second need is networking. This is probably the most crucial thing you can do in finding a good job. In the civilian job market, you must “network, to get work.” Going to hiring events, networking symposiums, and registering for virtual job fairs are all standard operating procedures in landing a job. However, connecting with people is the real key to opening doors of opportunity. One of the most effective resources today in connecting with people at companies is LinkedIn. Now that you have a superb resume, you can use it as a guide to build a solid premium LinkedIn profile. By the way, if you are veteran, you can get a one-year premium subscription for free. Find out more by going to veterans.linkedin.com, and while you are there, check out the video. I think you will literally be surprised by what you see.
LinkedIn is like having a rocket-propelled resume profile. It is pretty user-friendly and will definitely help you make some noise. Let’s say you applied to a job at Verizon. You can use LinkedIn to connect with people employed at Verizon by sending them an invitation to connect. Once your invitation is accepted, you can ask questions about Verizon’s culture, work environment, and benefits; request introductions to others of interest; or simply find out more about what Verizon does. For the record, Verizon is more than you think.
Again, LinkedIn is an effective resource that connects you with people on the inside. It also allows recruiters to find you, too. Applying for jobs online is a solid start. But, if that is all you are doing, then you are only lightly tapping on the doors of opportunity. I say knock hard and unhinge those doors by networking with the right people.
Nail the Interview:
The third need is nailing the interview. The good news about landing an interview is that you now have their attention. This is your “American Idol” moment. What now? How you present yourself, what you say, what you don’t say, and how you say it will all matter at an interview. My advice is to prepare by practicing with what I like to call “mirror questions.” This is where you ask yourself questions and practice in front of a mirror. Find someone you feel comfortable with and have them throw some questions your way. Start with the hard ones first. These are the questions you hope they don’t ask.
Here are a couple questions to try out for size:
- Why do you think you are uniquely qualified for this position?
- What is it about this position that appeals to you the most?
- How does your military background make you a fit for this role?
The point of all of this is to see how you come across to learn more about yourself. Do you say “um” a lot? Do you talk too fast or too slow? Do you blink a lot or stare too hard when you talk? Or maybe you talk with “knife-hands” like I did. The interview is the moment of truth. It is your one opportunity to convey who you are, what you’ve done, and what you are capable of doing in the civilian job market in your own words. You got this far, so don’t blow it because you failed to prepare. In the end, you will walk out confident that you are the best person for the job!