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Nine employment obstacles veterans face

Nine employment obstacles veterans face
Veterans and their family members attend the first 100,000 Jobs Mission hiring event at Naval Support Activity in Bethesda, Md. (Photo by Shannon Burns)

Transitioning from the military into civilian life isn't always easy. Despite the fact that you come from the same country and speak the same language, the culture of the civilian working world is radically different from the U.S. military. Both have different hierarchies, practices and industry-specific languages. Making a successful transition means learning a new set of skills to adapt to civilian workforce culture. Business Insider provided a list of the top nine obstacles transitioning veterans usually face, and we've touched on each of them for you below:

1. You don't see the transition from the military as starting over professionaly. When you first joined the military, how much did you know about it? Maybe a few basic concepts from books or what you heard from friends and family, but not much else. It took months of training and acclimating to fully integrate, and years to move up the ranks. Every step of the way brought new lessons and new ways of doing things.

The working world is no different. No matter what you did in the military, no matter how competent you are with the core skills necessary to do the job you want, it takes training and experience to climb the ranks. Although some may move quickly, the learning curve is unavoidable. When they join the civilian workforce, it's important that veterans realize they are, more often than not, taking a step down. Their responsibilities won't be as intense or, likely, important as they were in the military. Accepting that is imperative to maintaining a focused, realistic perspective.

2. You overestimate how unique your skills and experiences are. Years of intense experiences have shaped you in many positive ways. You should be a shoe-in for any civilian job, right? If there were far fewer people competing for the same positions, then maybe. Monster.com reported that 470,000 résumé were uploaded every week in 2012. If you compare that number to the number of job openings available, you have roughly 187 candidates, qualified or not, per job. No matter how qualified you are, you're likely competing with many others who are just as capable as you or are otherwise flooding the recruiter or hiring manager. Don't ever rely on your inherent worth – finding jobs will always require work.

3. Your résumé is too long or too short. How do you condense the depth and breadth of your work history and military experience into a single sheet of paper? According to Business Insider, you don't. The trick is to cherry-pick jobs and tasks from your work history, military experience included, that are most relevant to the job you're applying for. That means you might need to create a slew of résumés for different applications, but doing so will prove fruitful. An employer will respond more favorably to a résumé that clearly identifies what in your history suits you well to the open position rather than a laundry list of miscellaneous accomplishments.

4. You did not proofread your résumé. If your version of proofreading is scanning for all the red squiggly lines and unthinkingly making the suggested changes, you're doing it wrong. Proofreading tools that accompany word processors are powerful but limited. They won't always catch obvious spelling mistakes, they sometimes autocorrect to the wrong word, and their sense of grammar isn't as impeccable as yours should be. Take the time to honestly analyze every single sentence and scrutinize each punctuation mark. Have other people read it, read it five more times yourself, then have even more people read it; do whatever it takes, even using a professional résumé writing service, to make sure your grammar, spelling and formatting are impeccable.

5. You aren't using LinkedIn, or your profile isn't complete. The civilian working world takes LinkedIn seriously, and so should you. You don't have to be a social media expert, but creating a complete profile and remaining open to networking opportunities will serve well for any job-seeker. Some may even argue it's a necessity. A LinkedIn profile shows that you're capable of navigating modern technology and adapting to shifting business standards. Even if you don't have your sights set on working in upper management, having an easily accessible professional online profile will help you regardless of your chosen industry.

6. You aren't trying to leverage social media. A few years ago, scoffing at Myspace or Facebook wasn't an outmoded thing to do. Social media started off as an interesting way to reach out to others online, but only recently has it exploded into a nearly ubiquitous cultural phenomenon and enraptured the working world. Just as with LinkedIn, you don't have to be an expert but competency will make you a stronger candidate.

Websites like Facebook and Google+ allow you to remain in contact with individuals who may offer you a new job; even if you don't see each other face to face on a regular basis, professionals tend to remember who they like and trust when it's time to fill a position. Furthermore, Twitter isn't just for bragging about food or lamenting about "first world problems" – hiring managers and companies alike often tweet about job openings and provide information about their company, industry and other useful information.

7. You did not prepare adequately for the interview. No matter how many jokes you've heard about professionals successfully faking their way through work, the reality is that valuable employees train, prepare and make sure they're ready to accomplish a given task. Job interviews aren't to be taken lightly, and research and practice can only help you. The more you know about a company and the industries it's a part of, the more knowledgeable and prepared you'll appear during an interview. Potential employers respond well to candidates who show genuine interest, and that's proven by knowing who they are, what they do, who their competition is, what industry trends they're grappling with; the list goes on and on.

8. You wrote a lackluster thank you note. Thank you notes are simple, easy and help you stand out. After a job interview, get busy procuring and crafting your note and make sure it gets to the right people as soon as possible. Having said that, it's not enough to write: "Dear potential employer, thank you for the interview. I'm awesome. Take care, Veteran of the U.S. Military." The thank you needs to be accompanied by genuine introspection. Recall what you discussed during the interview, and mention one or two points in the thank-you note. The note itself is a mark of appreciation, but what you write is an indicator of what you learned and how much you pay attention.

9. You don't know what you want to do. If you really don't know what you want to do professionally, your job-searching forays are a poor time and place to figure it out. Candidates who lack focus aren't appealing to employers. You may not know what you want to do, but no one else will figure it out for you, especially hiring managers and recruiters. Rather than use job listings and the application process to find your path, try securing informational interviews, attending gatherings for different careers and researching online.

(Courtesy Military.com)

More in Veterans Career Center

 

Retired Marine and current Vtw

April 18, 2014 - 11:39pm

Some commenters should not be so naive as to think that HR professionals "don't get veterans' experience". And more importantly, in most corporate settings it is the manager who ultimately does the hiring, not the individual in HR. Additionally, I would argue the writer is NOT insisting veterans need to "step down" but rather that a civilian job may not have the same the breadth of responsibility, excitement and tempo as did their military occupation. And, much like the section chief, platoon sergeant or other military leader, civilian leaders/managers need and want the best person for the job too--their mission is the bottom line. So they are focused on someone who will be productive immediately--think experience and skill unique to the civilian job--rather needing to retrain to the "civilian" method. Simply said, like their military counterparts they prefer an "E-3 or 4" in terms of experience rather than an E-2-- they want a man and a half, not half man.

Frank Zamarripa

April 18, 2014 - 7:55pm

If you are banking on Veteran points when applying for government jobs, beware! Those points plus your qualifications, if they are good, will get you into the door, but that is all. They guarantee that you will be selected, but not hired. Usually the ones that get hired are the-inside people who are old government workers, and well known by the selecting manager. VA preference is often only a smoke screen.

Chris Ascherl

April 18, 2014 - 9:44am

There are a few fields your military service might help you land a job more then others, Oilfield work being one of them. Generally, your military service might get your resume a second look if it comes across the right recruiter's desk. There are several NCOs I served with I wouldn't trust with anything more than menial tasks.

Pat Zuczek, MSgt USAF (ret)

April 17, 2014 - 10:26pm

I am an HR staffing specialist, a retired USAF MSgt, and my director is a USMC colonel. This is the best article about transitioning job seekers I've read. My company has tried to give military veterans a chance to learn project management only to have them say they expect $125k, despite the fact they have no technical experience and no engineering degree. Without that experience and/or degree, you will be an entry level candidate. Now, a veteran who finishes their degree or goes to a trade school, we'll move them right up to the top of the list. But you can't fake technical knowledge.

MSgt David Crispin, Retired

April 17, 2014 - 3:08pm

I think there is more Bull per square inch in this than should be allowed. Veterans should not have to "take a step down" only ignorant hiring authorities think that. Perhaps if hiring authorities were experts on the tasks and functions of the jobs in their organizations instead of being "HR professionals" there would be a better connection between the veteran and the civilian industry. What HR professionals are professional at is creating hoops to be jumped through. Follow this advice if you want to get hired, but know in your heart that this is just more BS.

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