Men and women who leave the military might put dangerous missions behind them, but they face a host of other challenges when they return to civilian life. In addition to adapting to a comparatively calm daily routine and dealing with other effects of service, military leavers have to find work with a new employer.
With 23.7 million veterans in the country and 11.1 million of them under the age of 65 in the work force, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, these men and women comprise a large portion of workers.
"The key to success, as a veteran, in finding your feet when you return to the civilian environment is to understand yourself: who you are, what you value, where you can improve yourself," says Ken Betterton, a government and military consultant. "There are some simple tests you can take to establish your psychological preferences."Your next step is to decide if you want to continue down the career path you began in the military or if you want to make a switch.
"If your current path in the military lights the passion in you and you are experiencing pleasure and growth instead of pain and chaos, stick with it. But if not, don't be afraid to step outside the box and discover careers in new and different fields," Betterton advises.
Where the jobs are
As more men and women in the service return from their tours of duty, trends have begun to emerge signaling industries that make for easy transitions to the work force.
Military personnel who have experience driving large vehicles in the service are finding work as truck drivers. Companies like Con-way Truckload are actively working with the Department of Veteran Affairs to recruit active and post-service military personnel to the company.
Police departments are welcoming veterans, too, according to Betterton. In the military, you learn to work as a team, endure physical obstacles and develop strategies -- all assets to police work.
Plenty of service experience lays the groundwork for a consulting position. Scott Laliberte, a former information systems security officer for the Coast Guard, is now an expert on data security and managing director for Protiviti, a consulting and internal audit firm. After all, military personnel often have access to some of the world's most sophisticated technology before anyone else, so they would be the authorities on how to use it.
Other veterans capitalize on the soft skills they learned in the service rather than on their specific duties and become entrepreneurs. The discipline and leadership qualities they developed give them a base to be their own bosses, as long as they have some business know-how, of course.
Pizza chain Little Caesars offers discounts and training to veterans to franchise their own locations. Honorably discharged after five years of service, Steve Yoho decided to leave his work in the auto industry to have his own business.
He's just one of several following this trend.
Stacie Rine, a retired Navy combat pilot, depended on massage therapy in her most challenging moments, so she started her own Massage Heights franchise. Debi and Rick Lajti, both Air Force veterans, opened a TSS Photography franchise.
How to make the change
Wendy Enelow, author of 'Expert Resumes for Military-to-Civilian Transitions,' has some suggestions for veterans entering the work force:
1. If you do want to continue down the career path you've already begun, itemize your skills so that you can look for related work.
"Military personnel must clearly understand the skills and knowledge they have and where the opportunities exist in the civilian marketplace for individuals with their particular skill sets," Enelow says. Once you've done this, you can target your job search to the right employers.
2. Translate your experience for employers by using terms and descriptions relevant to their needs. Like any other job seeker, you can't expect the hiring manager to do the work for you.
Enelow suggests translating military ranks into job titles that make sense to them. "Don't use the names of specific military technologies which mean nothing outside of that realm; rather, talk about advanced electronics technologies. Don't make people have to study the resume to understand; spell it out."
3. Use keywords that appeal to hiring managers to get your resume noticed.
"Command and control" won't help you get hired, but "advanced communications technologies" will, Enelow says.
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