How to Get a Job After the Military
After spending 4 years or more proving your dedication and commitment to the U.S. Armed Forces, finding a job post-military can be a daunting process. If you’re like most veterans and military members, you’ve been through enough briefings with scattered information about the job hunt.
Empire Resume has become a trusted resource for answering questions for the military community and giving tips and strategies related to career guidance. In this comprehensive guide, you’ll find 7 crucial pieces of advice we offer about how to get a job after the military:
First things first. Take some time to translate your military experience into civilian language.
Review all your military skills and compile them into a list. You may find majority of your skills in your military performance evaluation.
To create the list, take a pen and paper and draw a line down the middle of the page to form two columns. Place a header in each column as follows:
Write every one of your military skills under the military header of your paper. Also, include the job positions you held and even your military specialty codes. Now, you can begin the next process — decoding your military skills. One of the resources we recommend in decoding your military skills and translating your military skills to civilian terms is the Military Skills Translator from Military.com.
For more information on how to decode your military training, check out our 3-step approach for translating achievements at military to civilian resume translator.
The best way to seek out the best civilian career is to focus on your skills and experience, not the job title itself.
Be sure to review the job description and think about the type of duties you perform while you’re at work to see the bigger picture.
Job titles in the civilian world take on several different meanings and can transfer to various industries.
Upskilling matters because the best way veteran employees can secure their future is to increase their value to their employer by expanding their knowledge and skill set. When opportunities for promotion arise, their employer will look favorably upon their willingness to learn and take on new tasks.
When on the job hunt though, upskilling and reskilling will only add to your resume and make you more attractive to future employers. Want to know another benefit? Upskilling can be done without use of the GI Bill benefits, for free!
All great resumes include the following elements:
- Proper formatting: Proper formatting means that your resume is designed to work with applicant tracking systems (ATS) that companies use to sort through the thousands of resumes they receive to find a qualified candidate.
- Rich keywords: A keyword rich resume helps it pull up in employers ATS by including the most important keywords from the job description.
- A resume summary: A resume summary is a brief introductory paragraph that concisely describes who you are and your qualifications and expertise. Unfortunately, some TAP facilitators still suggest you include the outdated “Objective” section. Doing this will severely undermine your chances for an interview as hiring managers are already aware that your objective is to find a job with a company.
- Your achievements: Your achievements clearly showcase how you performed above and beyond expectations.
- A maximum of two pages: All resumes should be two-pages or less, regardless of how extensive your background may be. Think of a resume as a marketing document that highlights your qualifications and achievements versus a laundry list of your extensive job duties.
If you’re looking to work for the federal government or want to get a job on a military base, you’ll need a federal resume that will bring your experience, skills, and achievements to life. This type of resume is slightly different than creating a military to civilian resume, and typically also includes your salary, hours worked, and your supervisors name/contact information.
As a former service member who has crossed into the civilian world, you will hear the word network or networking over-and-over again. Many people frown upon this word. But the term simply refers to connecting or making a connection.
To make the most out of networking and landing your dream job, we strongly suggest you create a veteran profile on LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional networking site, by using the information contained in your resume.
Think of your LinkedIn profile as the point man walking several steps ahead of you on the lookout. LinkedIn is your wingman in supporting your career efforts. LinkedIn acts as your representative to introduce you to potential employers and offer a virtual handshake.
Many veterans ask themselves, “Do I really need to be on LinkedIn?” You and every other veteran need a LinkedIn profile because the site works to introduce you 24 hours, 7 days a week. And guess what, more than 95% of recruiters use LinkedIn today to find an vet candidates.
To begin work after the military, you’ll need to apply for jobs. The job application process is unique and requires some understanding. Below are the steps to applying for a job:
- Apply: Your first step in the hiring process is applying for the open position. This can be accomplished in many ways, including applying online through a job board like Indeed or LinkedIn, directly on the company website, by contacting an executive recruiter, emailing or physically mailing your resume to a hiring manager, or applying in-person at job fairs. You may be able to use veterans’ preference to land a job as well.
- Interview: The interview process can vary significantly from company to company. For example, one company may have an initial phone screening interview, followed by an in-person interview with HR, followed by another interview with the direct hiring manager, followed by an interview with the department head, followed by an interview with a senior executive, and finally a panel interview of several peers. On the other hand, another company may only have a phone interview with only a single interview before accepting or rejecting a candidate. Most companies will fall somewhere in the middle.
- Background check: Most times, after you’ve been interviewed and chosen to move forward, most companies will conduct a background check. A background check can vary significantly depending on the company and position. Companies may hire a third-party provider to check a candidate’s criminal records, credit reports, and verify the information they included in their resume.
For example, if you are seeking to work in finance, you can count on a credit check being conducted. If you were looking to work for the government with a position requiring a Top-Secret clearance, you can expect a very lengthy background check examining every aspect of your life including a credit check, criminal check, drug testing, reference check, interviews with neighbors, and so forth.
At a minimum, expect most companies to perform a verification check with your former employer to substantiate your position, time at company, salary, and reason for leaving. Additionally, most companies will verify a candidate’s education.
- Job Offer: A job offer is the final step after you’ve applied for the position, been selected for interviewing, gone through the interview process, and passed the various background checks. The job offer can occur via phone, email, by letter, or a combination of them.
Keep in mind, some employers will extend what’s called a tentative offer. The tentative offer is contingent upon the pre-employment requirements, such as a background check. While a tentative offer is the time to negotiate your salary, this offer is not official until those pre-employment requirements are met and can be rescinded in the event you fail one of them. The tentative offer is commonly found in the federal hiring process.
Once your offer is official, ensure that you fully agree to the terms of the offer including salary, necessary travel, location of work, relocation package, type of employment (part-time, full-time, contract), and the start date. Also, don’t be afraid to negotiate your salary, benefits, vacation, and any other benefits such as a hybrid work environment.
In the civilian world, you will constantly hear that preparation is the key to nailing your interview. Here’s how:
- Bring copies of your resume: Being prepared for the interview means printing and bringing at least three copies of your resume. Keep in mind that the hiring manager may not have his or her computer readily available. Also, the internet or copy machine at the hiring manager’s office can always be malfunctioning.
If necessary, use a clear report or presentation cover to hold the resume in place and keep it from bending at the corners. We also recommend that you to bring a pen and a notepad in case you want to take some notes.
This level of preparation will allow for a professional presentation and speak volumes to your organizational skills. Bringing these items along to the interview shows that you’re ready, but it also indicates that you are a forward thinker who anticipates situations.
- Research the company: Being prepared for the interview also means performing research on the company. Review the company website for its history, mission, vision, and values. As you review these areas of the company, look for similarities and differences between your personal standards and the company’s standards.
- Dress appropriately: Understand that different industries will have different standards or codes for dressing. For example, some industries prefer business casual such as polo shirts, button down shirts, and khaki pants. Others may prefer a suit. Your best option is to play it safe and make a great impression by wearing full business attire. Colors such as dark blue, navy, or gray are always acceptable.
- Practice interviewing: Grab a friend or just stand in the mirror and practice interviewing. This is essential because you’ll get some feedback on your facial expressions and other forms of nonverbal communication cues. Practicing the interview means going over your responses to interview questions, learning to summarize your military experiences and relate the experiences to the position you’re interviewing by using civilian terms.
- Know the salary range: It’s important to know the salary range for the job you’re seeking because questions regarding salary can be tricky. Knowing the salary range for the position can keep you from not receiving the amount of compensation you deserve for the work. On another note, asking for too much money might take you out of consideration.
Now Go Forth and Find a Job!
With the 7 pieces of advice we’ve provided, you’ll be well on your way to landing the job you deserve after a life of service. Remember, finding a job isn’t easy for anyone, especially with the pandemic in play. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Empire Resume for help with your job search. Best wishes with your job search and be sure to join us each week for more information about the military to civilian transition.
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Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for both professionals and servicemembers transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and was responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.