Veterans: Turn Your Military Service Experience Into a Civilian Job

Veteran unemployment rates are higher but don't have to be

Soldier saluting
By Brett Harris

A veteran typically brings a wealth of skills to the table that a civilian job applicant can't. Military service teaches leadership, teamwork, decision-making and even engineering and technology. And yet, CNN reports that veteran unemployment rates are almost always 2 percent higher than the national average, and 34 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are unemployed for more than a year after returning home.

It's not that employers aren't interested in military veterans. They just often misunderstand what a veteran applicant is capable of, because the applicant either downplays their military experience or doesn't know how to explain it. In order to enter the job market successfully, you must represent yourself well on paper and in person.

1. Set clear career goals
For both veterans and civilians, one of the biggest challenges in writing a résumé is making it specific to the industry you want to pursue. Veterans can have even more trouble with this because they come from such a wide variety of backgrounds and have a wide variety of specialties. Veteran career resources such as counselors and coaches can help you figure out exactly what kind of work you want to do and what you're most qualified for. They can also help you figure out if you need further education or training to get the job you want.

2. Make a résumé that speaks to employers' needs
The secret reality of job hunting is that most people don't have one résumé. They have several variations of their résumé that are tailored to the different positions and employers they apply for. When you're interested in applying to a company, research everything you can. Find out what skills they're looking for and what skills are needed for the position in question and then tailor your résumé to highlight your qualifications. Applying to work in marketing is much different than applying to work in accounting, and applying to work at a large corporation is different from applying to work for a small and growing business.

3. Show your personality
Employers have the same support and admiration for the military as most civilians, but the unfortunate truth is sometimes veterans can be a little intimidating. In job interviews, make sure you speak about your military career as only one aspect of your life and experiences. A face-to-face interview gives you the opportunity to show that military officers are people just like everyone else -- they just usually have more life experience, discipline and skills than the average applicant. Be proud of your veteran status and flaunt your abilities. Don't go into too many confusing details or discuss some of the more harrowing things you might have seen, but do make sure you're highlighting the positive aspects of your service.

4. Be willing to learn
Preparing for a job interview usually involves rehearsing your answers to the most common questions. You should know how to break your skills down to the most basic description and give examples of when you used them effectively. But you should also prepare plenty of questions to ask the interviewer. Show her how well you've researched the company and how enthusiastic you are about the prospect of working there. Serving in the military is a great way to show you're a team player, so your questions and answers should revolve around what you can bring to the business as a whole. No matter what your skills are, you can always improve and expand on them in the workplace.

Finding a job after you come home can be nerve-wracking. Luckily, there are plenty of VA services that can help you with your questions and start you on the path to finding the civilian life you always wanted. After serving your country, you deserve to find success.

Brett Harris is a military veteran who attended college after serving. He recommends that military graduate students consider attending military-friendly colleges.

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November 11 2013 at 4:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Douglas Zoubek

Can anyone use a trained killer?

November 11 2013 at 2:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

CVICKERS@PEOPLESCOUT.COM a military recruiter, will tell you what to do and how to do it, and evaluate what you skills are and find you a job, relocate if necessary, talk to this MY SON, he has some answers for you.

November 11 2013 at 2:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My husband has tried several times to hire a vet, every single time they turned him down and said they would loose thier disablity if they go to work for him. If you want us to hire the vets, then you need to work with them, and supliment the difference in income, give them their bennifits and allow them to work enough ours for the cost of living wage. I certainly think they would be much better workers than those who are on unemployment or just loosing it cause they tend to only work long enough to quit and get on it again.

November 11 2013 at 10:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

what civilian occupations will handle a bombardier????

November 10 2013 at 12:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to agressionalso's comment

Although you may be a bombadier you had other things to do besides just loading, dropping or whatever bombs. You were in a unit, squadron, company, etc and you had other tasks to handle besides just that. That was your MOS maybe, but didn't you do anything else or did you just sit and wait to drop the bomb? My husband was 20 yrs in the Army, first as a Nike Radar Repairman (24P) and then in '79 became a Patriot Radar Repairmand and put in the first support unit in Hanau, Germany as a 24T. He didn't just reapir the equipment, although I never knew exactly what he did, but he was in charge of others at times, he had to do paperwork that reflected the work done or how they overcame a problem, etc. You never know what your skills are because you look at the big picture and not all the little things that add up and because often times colleges (community or higher) don't know how to trade your work for credits, or they weren't taught by the Army , but by the company that made the equipment because there were no schools in the Army to yet to teach the classes. Try looking for someone in your community who has been there, has done what you do, meaning they were in the military and have learned how to use their skills to their advantage. I would also like to see people hire older vets who have been laid off and for whatever reason you don't get hired. There is still life in many of our vets in their 60s or above, younger people just out of college have great book knowledge in some things and yet no skill either on the job or even people skills and must be taught how to do the same things these members can do. Good luck and thank you for your service.

November 11 2013 at 6:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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