When you served in the armed forces, you were a member of the best-trained military in the world. You may have learned how to fly helicopters, repair Navy ships or operate sophisticated computer systems. However, when your deployment ends and you return to civilian life, making a transition from military service to the civilian market can be daunting.
It can be challenging in trying to convince a potential employer how your skills and experience can translate into a specific role. Also, your job searching skills may be a little rusty. It has probably been awhile since you put a resume together or prepared for an interview, and these are core skills you will need to be successful in making that transition.
The good news is that the Department of Defense (DOD) recognizes the needs of returning military personnel has set up an extensive network of career services designed to assist you become familiar and comfortable with modern job-hunting practices.
For instance, the Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) has designed a suite of its very own career-enhancing tools, including resume and cover letter writing software made specifically for transitioning soldiers. There have developed software to help soldiers research career interests and tutorials about relating military skills to civilian roles. ACAP also provides a library of model interviews on video that transitioning personnel can view to learn about interviews for roles in specific industries.
Another great resource is the REALlifelines Initiatives. This program is through the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Recovery and Employment Assistance Lifelines (REALifelines) Initiative. REALLifelines provides wounded and injured service members (and their families) with personal assistance to ensure a successful transition to civilian life and to prepare them for rewarding careers.
You can meet face-to-face with a Disabled Veterans Outreach Program specialist who can provide guidance to help you with your search. REALifelines representatives are located at every major Military Treatment Facility where returning veterans are receiving treatment.
In addition, if you are home you can visit REALifelines Employment Advisor website where there is an interactive tool that can help you:
- Find a new career.
- Return to your pre-service employer.
- Understand workplace laws, rights and accommodations for disabled veterans.
- Work for the federal government.
- Find assistance for your family.
- Access other benefits and support services.
Also Real Warriors (which is not a government organization) has some great information on how to help returning veterans find employment.
Job Searching Tips
In addition to the many resources provided by the government, there are some tips that may be helpful.
- Skills Translation: If you're leaving the military and going to work for a defense contractor like Lockheed Martin or Northrup Grumman, you have to translate your military skills into civilian terms. Acronymns that were commonplace in your life and military terminology may be unknown to HR Directors. Have someone review your resume to ensure you're not using language that will confuse potential hiring managers. There is a skills translator on Military.com that can also be of assistance. Because hiring is done primarily online, companies use software that searches for the right keywords. Miliary jargon won't help and your resume will be ignored. You've got to get the right keywords into your resume so you can get through the screening process.
- Use Your Network: Many veterans express how much they enjoyed the relationships and camaraderie they experienced while serving. As you transition from military service keep that network alive. Searching online can be frustrating and lonely. Relationships you made in the military are a great way to find other opportunities. There are many organizations that work specifically on bringing veterans together to help each other find opportunities.
- Staffing Agencies: Your perception of staffing agencies may be outdated. Today there are many agencies that work in very specific areas and are searching for candidates to fill high level positions. The professionals at these agencies can also provide resume guidance, interviewing skills and other resources to help you land your next opportunity. There are veteran-specific search programs that will give you access to professionals who know how the system works and who will be familiar with your situation.
The bottom line is that there are numerous resources available to you, companies who have dedicated a percentage of their hiring specifically for veterans and a military network that is working hard to help veterans find opportunities. Make sure you're accessing everything available to you and find support. Searching for a new opportunity is a difficult, lonely and frustrating process for anyone.
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