How do you plan on finding employment in the civilian world? Don't know; don't care? With the current realities of the job market, a blasé attitude won't get you very far. Unless you're immensely well-connected, you'll have to do a lot of leg-work to find stability in civilian life.
Although the process might seem chaotic and unnerving, there are very simple, easy steps every veteran can take to find success as a civilian. Inspired by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, here are seven steps toward finding civilian employment.
1. Set your own goals
Think back to your military service: where did you live, what was your MOS group, what was your job code? How much control did you have over any of those things? Unless you worked specific language into your enlistment contract, the military most likely answered all three questions for you. Once you enter the civilian world, that all changes.
Opposite the rigid structure of the military telling you where to go and what to do, veterans working in the civilian job market need to define these goals for themselves. This can be an extremely stressful experience, or a rewarding one depending on your interests, location, financial stability and work experience. If you're struggling to set job goals for yourself, think about your needs and research the industries and jobs that fill them.
Setting your own goals will help you keep perspective while searching for jobs. It's easy to flounder and despair if you don't find something in a short period of time, but aiming for a target aids with focus and perseverance.
2. Collect intel
Were you ever ordered to do something without being given adequate information? Did you enjoy that experience? Do yourself a favor and don't relive that memory: gather as much intelligence as you can before you act. In the civilian world, discerning the right and wrong way to do things can be difficult.
Your first step is to pick an industry you're interested in. Ask a few fundamental questions that will help guide your job hunt and search for the answers. How is the industry expected to grow in the next five years? Which companies are doing the best in the industry, and what's their company culture like? What experience and education to successful professionals in that industry do they have? How do you give yourself that experience and education?
At worst, you may discover that a certain industry isn't right for you, but at best you'll be giving yourself a clear view of the big picture, and that will inform how to successfully prepare and proceed.
3. Expand your network
Take a second to think about the role of a recruiter. They have a lot of jobs to fill and an exponentially higher number of applicants to fill them. How would you tackle that? The way many companies cut through this Gordian knot is to simply take a closer look at people recommended by trusted professionals. How do you get someone to vouch for you? Network.
Networking is most effective when you make genuine connections with like-minded professionals in your industry. Shoving business cards into every open palm won't get you very far. But, making an impression and connecting will take you a long way. Don't just cruise forums and boards on the web. Go out to events in the real world and search for opportunities to meet people face to face.
Note that you should never outright ask to be hired while networking. Professionals want to help qualified, earnest people grow, not pass out jobs to the people who push for them.
4. Customize your resume
All job openings, even ones with similar titles and work requirements, are different. Always customize your resume to the specific job you're applying for so it has a better chance of getting you noticed and landing you an interview.
Pay attention to the job listing. What do they ask for? How does your experience match up? Again, even if you apply for the same type of position over and over, each company looks for something unique to their needs.
What do you know about the company's culture? You should take into consideration any noteworthy quirks or cultural values.
5. Strengthen your interview techniques
Being interviewed for a job is like taking a test while acting in a play at the same time. You have to balance your professional image with having good responses. Fortunately, it's not quite as intense as either of those things.
If you brush up on the culture of the industry you want to work in, you'll have a solid understanding of how to behave during an interview. If you study common interview questions and prepare some natural responses, you'll be able to answers questions naturally and easily.
6. Take the initiative
Always take the initiative on a job hunt. Send out your resume, follow up on whether or not it was received, send a thank you note after interviewing for a position, and never let your potential new employer take all of the responsibility in communicating.
The key here is not to be pushy. Wait one to two weeks between communications to send a follow-up note. It's normal to check in with people in the civilian world, but if you don't give them enough time you'll come off as overly aggressive or pushy. The one to two-week rule is generally a safe bet, even if you end up sending a second check-in because your first didn't get a response.
7. Reach out for assistance
If you lack information or experience and need a point in the right direction, asking for help is sometimes the only way to get it taken care of. Similar to taking the initiative, asking for help when you need it is a sign of professionalism. Employers want things done well, and reaching out to friendly experts is an excellent way to ensure that happens. Whether you need a friend to look at your resume or want to grab an industry professional for an informative interview, arming yourself with the knowledge of others is always a good thing. In some fields, learning from the long-timers is the only way to progress.