Almost everyone that leaves military service eventually becomes another member of the civilian job hunting force. Many prior soldiers, airmen, marines and seaman find the search a bit more challenging when it comes to translating their military skills into marketable civilian skill qualifications. Let me give you a little personal advice that worked for me in finding a job after I retired from the Army.

Former Marine and former law enforcement officer shaking hands with a fellow veteCredit: U.S. Government, 2012

Credit Due

First, I have to give credit where credit is due. Another officer of roughly my background and years retired sometime before I submitted for retirement. He provided me a roadmap for job hunting that I followed to its fortunate success. The basic elements were in the ability to do the following:

  1. Make an inventory of your military skills;
  2. Translate those military skills into civilian language;
  3. Reflect that translation into a concise resume (not too long or short);
  4. Have a unique resume for each job you apply for, tailored to the position's requirements;
  5. Send a letter of introduction with a brief paragraph as to why you are well suited for the job;
  6. Then understand and rehearse the interview process and predictable questions;
  7. And if you are looking for work in a field that requires certification, get it done. Some companies are willing to train you, while others expect you to have at least some skill or certification.

Best Advise I Received

  • My personal best success in the job hunting world was accomplished through consulting companies.

The singular most helpful guidance was to take advantage of consulting company services or consider applying for as many civilian government positions as possible. The advantage of civilian government jobs is in the potential of earning a government pension, while consulting companies generally have higher paying jobs. Although consulting companies generally are higher paying options they are also temporary in nature, usually with a limited duration based on the customer's needs and available funding. 

Consulting companies are often resources for client businesses to fill jobs that have a high level of responsibility, such as project manager, high skilled technology jobs, or other specialty and managerial positions. They also provide training for businesses in leadership, teambuilding, and many other skills that often mirror those skills acquired during military service. Another placement service option is through one of the many staffing service companies. These are all-purpose temporary employment agencies; also known as Temp-Agencies. These Temp-Agencies are valid options for finding work relatively quickly for skilled, semi-skilled or non-skill skilled labor.

Veterans Helping Veterans

Things To Do

Contact past military members that have already successfully transitioned into the civilian job market. Discuss their experiences, get advise on places that are pro-veteran versus businesses that may not be pro-veteran. If you can, develop a mentor relationship with a veteran that has the ability and knowledge to assist you in your career/job search and preparations. 

Take inventory of your skills even if they seem to be military unique; try and translate them into something a civilian employer who does not have a military background can understand. As an example: Squad Leader or Platoon Sergeant equals civilian Section Leader, Supervisor or Foreman. Serving in a military leadership role is experience as a supervisor; senior non-commissioned officers, warrant officers and commissioned officers are managers regardless of their duty title. Techno-oriented military skills such as those in the information technology or communication fields are pretty much straight forward and need very little translation between military and civilian terms. Also, most former military members have at least some experience with Microsoft Office Tools, such as: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access.

Develop your resume. Create one tailored resume designed for each type of job application. Remember as stated before, keep your references to your military skills in terminology that a civilian employer can understand. Don't write a book. Employers are not interested in reading the novel of your life. 

Practice interviewing with someone that has already walked the ground you now tread. Within the first few minutes of a real interview, the prospective employer has formed an opinion about you, that if good, makes the rest of the interview easier. However, if you start of on the wrong-foot with the employer, you will have a long uphill climb to win them over in your favor. Find a former military member that currently is in a civilian job and practice a job interview. It is best if you can find someone with similar military skills as yourself or that has transitioned into a job within your desired civilian career field.

Never stop learning. Employers like to see that you took the initiative to continue your educational growth. This is true whether you are looking at a college degree, certification, or just any general skills training, job related or not. A common example is if you are pursuing a position as a Project Manager, then you should take steps towards becoming Project Management Professional (PMP) Certified.

Additionally, there are transitioning service offices for service members leaving the military. These service offices include assistance with the how-to for civilian job searching. For military retirees, check in with the Retirement Services Office (RSO). They will help you with a multitude of retiree related issues including civilian job transitioning.

Companies Hiring Veterans

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Internet Job Searching Forums and Advice.

An on-line networking site for job hunting forums for many different communities is Linkedin career networking website. This site can also assist you in finding other former service members in the job searching market.

Other sites you may not have considered:

Facebook: There are thousands or veterans with Facebook Pages that can be resources for advise and networking jobs. There are many businesses promoting their organizations on Facebook and include contact information.  

YouTube: Many businesses publish videos on YouTube to promote their organization as pro-military, pro-veteran career opportunities. Just do a simple "jobs for veterans" or "jobs for military" search and you will see a mix of advise and business promotion videos.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has lunch with members of Helmets to HardhatsCredit: United States Air Force, 2011

Veterans Affairs/Veterans Administration website and careers. The VA has been pushing towards hiring more veterans since veteran care professionals are more likely to understand what their fellow veteran patients needs are in health concerns and treatment.[1]

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