I was doing my best to ignore a marathon session of conference calls this week by surfing the web, and came across some online article that discussed some of the challenged faced by returning veterans seeking employment.  It made for interesting reading, even though it’s hardly news to anyone that it’s a tough job market out there right now.  This is especially true for service members making the transition to a civilian workforce. 

                But what stood out the most to me was the series of comments below the actual article.  I got the impression that some people feel that their or their loved ones’ military service should give them priority for job placement.  I might get some hate mail back for saying this, but I disagree. 

                Hey, don’t get me wrong now:   I’ll be the first one to thank a veteran for their service, and I donate a portion of all my proceeds from freelance writing to the USO.  But there’s a huge fundamental difference between a career in public service and working in the private sector.  While both the government and private companies provide needed services, companies are also interested in making a profit.  If they don’t, they won’t be around for very long.  Because of that, no company is ever obligated to give you a job or to keep you employed.

                Fortunately for vets, security companies and defense contractors are some of the most military-friendly employers out there.  A good number of the positions are very similar to military occupational specialties, so your biggest challenge is going to be standing out among the huge field of applicants you’re competing against.   Recruiters are charged with finding the best possible candidate, so for today’s post I’d like to share a few tips to help you fit that mold.

                First, do your best to try to learn the language of the civilian workforce.  It doesn’t matter whether your MOS was an 11 Bravo or a 96 Delta, because I have no fucking idea what those are.  Spell it out, whether it’s “EOD Tech” or “Supply Administration” or even “Cook”.  Make it easy for folks to understand what you’ve done, and what talents you have to offer.  The recruiter you’re working with might have been in a different branch of service, or more likely has no military service at all.    

Along these same lines, your goal should be to make the recruiter see you not as a service member, but as an employee of that company.   Try to avoid sending the same (professionally written) resume out to each employer.  Make sure to fine-tune it for each position that you apply for.  Pick out a few key words from the job description and insert them into your experience section.  I’ve heard that the average recruiter spends about 15 seconds looking at a resume, and I personally don’t spend much more time than that.  It’s important that you have some job-specific phrases in there that will catch a recruiter’s eye and convince them that you’re a good fit for the job.  

                Finally, I’ve got to mention your medals and ribbons.  Sorry to be blunt, but they count for nothing anymore.  Decorations for valor MIGHT earn you some credibility if you’re applying for a PSD slot, but unless your war stories land you a book deal, no one’s going to give you a signing bonus because of your awards no matter what they are.  From my perspective, a Good Conduct Medal simply means that you did the job you were paid to do.  I don’t even count Meritorious Unit awards, since I’ve seen them given out to entire ships or installations before.  If you’re especially proud of certain awards and want to list them on your resume, by all means do so.  Just realize that it’s much more important to explain what YOU did to deserve an award, and how that experience relates to the job you’re applying for.      

Remember, almost everyone respects your military service and wants to see you succeed in whatever career you choose, but recruiters and hiring managers are committed to hiring the best candidate for the job.  It’s your job as an applicant to convince them that’s you…