One day, I was standing in line at a tire store waiting to pick up my car. In front of me was an older gentleman who turned around and asked if my husband served? I had to consider his perspective and why he would ask a single woman in line with no husband in sight – if my husband served? I quickly realized it was because I was wearing a grunt style t-shirt, which is popular with the military and veteran community. It is a t-shirt that eludes to having served in the military. I responded with the truth, well in fact, he did serve. But, I too am a veteran. He paused, and I could tell he was a little flustered as he apologized for making the assumption. While, in this case, he was correct as my ex-husband was a Marine – the interaction only confirmed for me the stigma often surrounding female veterans.

Assumptions Are Not Helpful

The general public traditionally thanks those for their service and assumes one of two things. One thought is that you served in the Army without considering that there are other branches. The second thought, if you are a woman, is that you are a military spouse. Women have served in the United States military for decades. My grandmother is a perfect example of the need to shatter a glass ceiling as a female soldier in the United States Marine Corp. In her experience, very few women enlisted. Even less  were allowed into leadership roles and were generally not seen as equals to their male counterparts. While I certainly would not compare my grandmother’s time in service to the current female soldier – it’s still clear that we have a ways to go.

What Women Veterans Need

Unfortunately, this one-sided rhetoric of women who served in the service continues to have its fair share of challenges in the civilian workforce. I have had some employers thank me for my service as they saw it on my resume. I have had employers create an uncomfortable dialogue around my time in service. The bottom line is you don’t know what you don’t know.

Society and civilian employers may not fully understand nor embrace your military experience in its entirety. But it helps if you have another emotionally intelligent and open-minded person across the table from you. Women veterans face unique challenges when it comes to finding work after their military service. While the transition to civilian life can be challenging for any veteran, women veterans often encounter additional barriers.

7 Ways to Overcome Challenges as a Women Veteran

Here are seven factors to consider and resources that can help you in the job search.

1. Recognize your skills and experiences.

Women veterans possess a wide range of valuable skills and experiences gained during their military service. Whether or not those are readily acknowledged, it’s important to not personally diminish those skills and experiences gained during your time in service. It’s important to recognize and articulate these skills when applying for civilian jobs.

2. Translate military experience to civilian terms.

When applying for jobs, it’s crucial to translate your military experience into language that civilian employers can understand. This tip goes for all genders, of course. But it’s a drum to keep beating. Many organizations and websites even provide resources and tools to help veterans translate their military occupational specialties (MOS) and skills into civilian job descriptions.

3. Use women veteran-specific resources.

There are many resources available specifically for women veterans. Organizations like the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), Women Veterans Interactive (WVI), and the Women Veterans Alliance (WVA) provide support, networking opportunities, mentoring, and job placement assistance for women veterans.

4. Connect with other women veterans.

Networking with other women veterans can be helpful to see how they navigated the unique challenges after leaving the military. Attend veteran-focused job fairs, career expos, and networking events to connect with employers who actively seek to hire veterans. Additionally, online platforms and forums, such as LinkedIn groups or veteran-specific social networks, can provide valuable connections and job leads.

5. Take advantage of educational benefits.

If you have educational benefits through the GI Bill or other resources, go for the next degree after transitioning. Enhancing your skills and qualifications in your desired field will give you more confidence and leg up in the interview process.

6. Leverage government resources.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other government agencies offer various programs and services to help women veterans with employment. So, if you’re finding the transition challenging, click around to see if there’s more support for you.

7. Prepare for interviews.

Before job interviews, practice your interviewing skills and be prepared to address any concerns or misconceptions that employers may have about hiring women veterans. Take the time to practice how you want to emphasize your skills, experience, and commitment to excellence. It’s better to walk in prepared to face any misconceptions and plan for how you’ll respond.

We still have a ways to go in supporting women veterans. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to use all the resources available to help you navigate the job search process successfully.

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Carin Richelle Sendra is a Post 9/11 USAF Veteran that served both in active duty as well as D.O.D security contracting OCONUS. She has spent time in both the private and public sector working within the Human Capital space assisting organizations to train and develop their teams. She has spent time as a lecturer for academic and professional development. Carin has spent several years supporting the military and veteran community while offering her unique perspective that many veterans encounter post-service. She has a Master's degree in Management studies from The University of Redlands and a certificate from Cornell University on The Psychology of Leadership.