Uncle Sam Wants You…In Industry

My last blog discussed online career resources for the general public. One of those resources is Monster.com which also has a series of articles on military to civilian job search. You can find them here. The timing is right as troops come back from Iraq, and President Obama calls for the nation to become more internationally competitive. The job market is starting to pick up, and the skills and experience that military personnel have acquired are going to be valuable assets for them and their country.

I’ve worked with a number of vets in a career development capacity through higher education institutions and this is what I saw: my vets had great follow through on assignments, good communication, problem-solving and decision-making skills, leadership qualities and team building and working skills.  What needed work was resume writing that could explain their military service in civilian terms, networking and job interviewing skills, and handling on the job issues.

There are other resources that can help with these particular issues in the military to civilian job search. ACAP, The Army Career and Alumni Program provides career assistance to Army personnel and their families looking to transition into civilian careers. Other branches of military service may provide career transition assistance on their respective bases. One such example is The Marine and Family Career Center at Camp Pendleton. Division transition counselors and Morale, Wellness and Recreation may also offer some of these services.

Special Job Search Considerations and Tips

Resumes

Include your military title and the civilian equivalent if you know it. If there isn’t an equivalent, make sure you include general skills acquired such as communication, leadership, analysis and problem-solving, and decision-making. Check these sites for ideas on how to back up your skills with licensing and certification credentials: Credentials Opportunities Online-Army, (COOL) and Navy COOL. The GI Bill provides educational resources for military personnel and their dependents, and there are numerous scholarships for veterans. Just plug your military branch, career interest and the word “scholarship” into your computer’s browser to find them.

Career Research

The larger job search engines not only provide job listings, but resources to explore careers. Check out Monster’s Career Snapshots. See my earlier post C’mon, Already! I Just Need a Job! for more resources. The more effort you put in at this stage, the smoother your job search is likely to be.

Networking

Networking before and after you land a job will give you personal contacts to not only develop your civilian career, but a chance to help your military buddies with theirs. Get started at Military Alumni Groups, Military Mentor Network and Women in Military Service Memorial to connect with veterans who can help you.

Interviewing

Interviewing for civilian jobs can be very different from how you progressed up the military ranks. Practice interviewing skills with a career coach or counselor. Videotape your practice interviews to improve your skills and to examine your body language. Look for interviewer questions that are related such as: What are your qualifications for this job and Why should I hire you? Be able to explain your qualifications in civilian terms and how those qualifications can help an employer. You are also interviewing the interviewer to see if this job/company is going to be a good fit for you, so have a list of your own questions and be prepared to ask them.

Other Considerations: Attitude, PTSD, Anger Management and Drug Use

Returning from deployment to civilian life is a huge adjustment and most employers understand that. Your life has changed, and in many ways, there is no going back to before. Luckily, America’s attitude towards returning military personnel has changed dramatically since the Vietnam war, and people want to help. They may feel that America owes you a job, and you may agree. However, that attitude does not always go over well in an interview. Concentrate instead on your qualifications and how you can impact an employer’s bottom line. Understand that once you get the job, you may run into employees who do not have the same work ethic, attention to detail or deadlines as you do and be patient. Changing work behavior is what will make America more competitive with other nations, but it won’t happen overnight.

Thanks to the media, America has a better understanding of PTSD, but many do not know that it also exists in the civilian population. Even kids can get it (Stay tuned for my next blog post: Domestic Violence in the Workplace: In Memoriam.) By law, PTSD is treated like any other disability such as diabetes, and you do not have to disclose to an employer that you have it. But you do have a personal obligation to yourself, family, friends and employer to get help for it. The same is true for managing your anger and use of prescription or illegal drugs. Veterans Affairs provides services for these issues. There are also private counselors who specialize in working with veterans if you prefer not working with the VA. Open your computer’s browser and plug in “your location, PTSD, counselor” to get help.

It is very easy, even with family and friends around you, to feel isolated once you have left the service. But you do not have to deal with these issues by yourself. Keep this blog handy, and refer to it when you need it. The VA, your military branch, military and civilian friends, family and community services can all be a part of your civilian job search and support network.

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