We work with both a lot of veterans, and a lot of transition counselors and military transition assistants. One of the biggest pet peeves we hear from hiring managers and challenges we hear from vets is the difficulty in turning military experience to a civilian job. Many veterans try to take every military skill and list it on their resume. What they’re failing to do is decide what career path they’d actually love. When you start with work you’d enjoy, your application process, and eventually your work day, will be that much better. Here are a few tips for helping you refine your resume and tap into a career you’d love.
1. Look to your hobbies.
A lot of veterans spend time considering their MOS and trying to find the civilian career equivalencies. But that may not actually lead to a job you love. Think about what you enjoy doing when you’re not in uniform, and if there’s a civilian job your could pursue based on your passion. A veteran who recently appeared on the Security Clearance Careers podcast strongly advocates that vets not just focus on what they did in uniform – especially if you feel like everyone is telling you you’re ‘only qualified’ for a certain position based on your military experience. The military has made you a coveted candidate because of the many soft skills you’ve attained.
2. Take advantage of internships.
If Robert De Niro isn’t too cool to take an internship, you’re not too cool either. The idea of ‘starting at square one’ through an internship or apprenticeship can seem ridiculous to a veteran with combat experience. But the fact of the matter is internships can be a great way to test drive a certain career and see if you actually like it. Even if you’re using your GI Bill benefits to pursue a new career path, it’s hard to tell if you’d really like the job if you haven’t test driven the work. If you do your homework, you can also use internships for credit hours that apply toward a new degree, all while using your GI Bill. The military already has popular in-office fellowships where service members get civilian experience at places like Google and USAA. Those same companies also have great programs for veterans.
3. Participate in informational interviews.
Most veterans love teams, but hate networking. The concept of ‘selling yourself’ comes in stark contrast to the notion of ‘selfless service.’ But just as internships can be a great way to test out new careers, informational interviews can be a great way to see if a particular career path would be one you’d enjoy. For instance, your military transition counselor may be urging you to pursue an IT degree, since cybersecurity careers are in such demand. But if you’re completely clueless as to what a network administrator actually does all day, talking to someone who does it is a great idea. Similarly, you may be told that force protection or law enforcement are the best career options for you, but talking to someone in the work is a much better bet than just assuming the job is a good one for you because you have a similar MOS.
4. Take your time.
This is easier said than done, but it truly is in your best interest to take your time. If possible, try to get your military leadership to give you ample time to transition while still on active duty. Depending upon your current assignment, this may be easier said than done, but taking advantage of all of the resources out there, from resume writing classes to transition seminars, before you’re completely out of the military is always a good idea. Once you leave service, the pressure is immediately on to start earning a paycheck. That urgency can lead you to take a career or pursue a path you won’t actually enjoy. Even if you find yourself between military career and civilian occupation, try to slow down. Ideally, you’ll have some savings you can use for a month or two as you get your resume in order and apply for jobs, or consider whether you’d like to take advantage of your GI Bill benefits. If you’re in a race to take the first offer you get, you may find yourself wishing you hadn’t in an equally quick amount of time.
Finally, work with recruiters to get the best success. They want to hire veterans, and they’re eager to help you find success. Next to your military transition assistance counselor, they’re your best resource for finding a job you love.