Veteran Job Search: Standing Out from the Crowd in a Competitive Job Market

Career Advice

Job seekers are facing tough times these days. You might be one of them, fresh out of the uniformed ranks and wondering whether you’ve made a mistake by hanging up your boots.

The unemployment rate is still high at 9.1% and the financial world at-large is on shaky ground at best. Moody’s seems to be downgrading everyone and hopeful presidential candidates all seem to contradict one another regarding the appropriate way ahead.

While the “get out and get a good job” landscape is far from ideal, it is not impossible.  Impossibilities are, after all, no problem for you. You eat them for breakfast.

Bold, audacious risk-taking warriors never hesitate to reach out, reach up and get the job they want. Armed with the following tips, you will stand head and shoulders over the other candidates.

Do your homework better than the other guy.

It’s not enough to know the company’s slogan and the fact that your buddy said he knew someone who was hired and paid well there. You have to understand the business that the company is truly in, their goals and their competitors. It helps to have at least a cursory grasp on the issues facing the organization. You also need to be able to intelligently explain to a prospective employer exactly how you can contribute to the company.

To research an employer effectively:

  • Read all about the company on its website and continue your research on sites that aren’t created by the employer but that mention it anyhow. Don’t limit your informational dig to the Internet.  Research off-line as well.
  • Talk to those in the know and who are accessible to you about how the company really works.
  • Don’t count on promises of employment you received in uniform. Unfortunately, we’ve heard too many stories recently of veterans who had a “guaranteed” position upon separating from service, only to find out it didn’t pan out. Network, connect, but don’t take for granted that something will be waiting for you even if you were promised.

For even more tips, see the ClearanceJobs.com article,  Job Search Homework:  Researching the Employer.

Get it write.

Your resume and cover letter have to be spot-on for each opportunity.  Avoid using a one-size fits all model of either and you’ll be doing your job search a huge favor. If you’ve met and exceeded the standard in #1, you should be able to do this easily.

  • Take advantage of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) nearest you where you can learn everything you ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask about translating your skills, writing cover letters and devising eye-catching resumes that employers will understand.

Become skilled in the art of the interview.

Once you’ve landed the coveted face-to-face job interview, it’s game on more than ever before. Whether your interview is in-person or virtually on Skype, you need to be ready.

To stand out over the others:

  • Anticipate and practice your questions and answers.  Be sure to load your frontal brain matter with solid examples of how you have accomplished certain feats.
  • Get as much intel on your interviewer as possible in advance from your networking contacts.
  • Dress to impress, not to distress.
  • Keep your mouth closed at least 50% of the time. While it’s closed, you should be actively listening so when your mouth is moving during the remaining 50% of the time, you are making a good impression. Check the military jargon at door while you’re at it. Hooah?
  • Follow-up after the interview. Closure is a good thing.

If you require additional coaching or assistance don’t hesitate to contact the TAP counselor nearest you.

Harness the power of networking.

You already know that networking is key to any successful job search but you have to do more than appreciate its power. Like positivity, networking only increases in value the more you do it, and in today’s job search it is one of the most critical factors that can set you apart from the competition. You have to harness it and make it truly work for you.

  • Review and expand your database of contacts, in and out of uniform.
  • Selectively join and actively participate in professional organizations online and in the off line world.
  • Join the Cleared Network to connect professionally and securely with companies and recruiters online.

Remind employers of your strengths.

You were a military success story and now you are a civilian success story waiting to happen. As you go through the motions of convincing an employer of those facts, remind him of your unique strengths.

You…

  • …have a security clearance or can obtain one easier than others can.
  • …can be a both a leader and a follower as the team requires it.
  • …have wildly impressive technical and managerial skills.
  • …are able to work with diverse cultures to reach a common goal
  • …are drug free and in excellent physical health.
  • …are flexible, adaptable, likeable and teachable.

You have what it takes to stand out in a crowded job search. Embrace your skills, follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to a new opportunity that recognizes your unique qualities.

Janet Farley is the author of the Quick Military Transition Guide: Seven Steps to Landing a Civilian Job (Jist Inc, 2012). She writes the JobTalk column for the Stars and Stripes newspapers.

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