Recently discharged veterans often experience confusion and worry stemming from adjusting to family life and finding a job. Transitioning isn’t easy, and landing a career in the process can add to the stress.
In the military, you can kick arse and take names, but putting that and your MOS on an application is not going to get you anywhere. Here’s what will help you land that civilian job:
1. Demilitarize your skills
Military speech is like a foreign language to most civilians; they hear what you’re saying, but they don’t understand any of it.
I recently interviewed a Navy Explosives Ordinance Disposal (EOD) specialist. During the interview, I stopped him to ask, “What does all this mean?” I realised the importance, but I requested that he speak to me as if I were a fourth grader. The request lightened the mood. After a quick laugh, he apologized, realised what he was doing and spoke in simpler terms.
Other military members would have understood that he trained IED detection teams. But I required him to slow down and tell me in plain English that he traveled all over the country preparing troops with the latest tactics in explosives detection.
His experience was important and interesting, but if I hadn’t stopped him and asked him to clarify, I probably wouldn’t have offered him the job.
Assume that hiring and interviewing managers know nothing about the military. Describe your skills and experience in simple terms, demilitarize everything, and rehearse demilitarizing your skills before the interview.
2. Write it down in plain English
What is written on your resume is just as important as, if not more important than, what you say in person. Oftentimes, your resume is the first impression you make on a hiring manager and a determining factor in whether you receive an interview in the first place.
When someone unfamiliar with the military reads a resume full of military lingo, they might pass on it since they don’t understand the qualifications. Instead of writing phrases in military speak, write something that a civilian will understand.
For example, if you were a MOS 51C in the Army, a corporate recruiter won’t know that the MOS number means a Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) in acquisition, logistics and technology contracting. When you instead tell the recruiter your actual title with detailed duties, you’ll receive a much more positive response.
An MOS number is not as likely to resonate with hiring managers as an NCO in the United States Army will. Job titles and relatable proficiencies are what recruiters are trained to look for and are what you want to display.
3. Talk up your soft skills
As a veteran, you have the advantage of being able to list not only technical skills on your resume—the job you performed and any training you received—but soft skills as well. These include leadership ability, work ethic, working well under pressure, adaptability, efficiency, self-directedness and a commitment to excellence.
These are things that every employer is looking for in a potential hire, and nearly every veteran has them. Just highlight your qualities so that they know that you have them, too.
Remember, after writing your resume, to have at least two people read it to help ensure everything is grammatically correct and the document is easily understood by civilians.
4. Show your stripes
If you earned extra stripes, awards and medals, then show them off. Prestigious awards and commendations are universally appreciated amongst recruiters. In some instances, the topics of your medals or awards may be private, and recruiters will honour that if you prefer not to talk about it. However, being able to list anything from distinguished service to good conduct can be a great addition to any resume.
Even though this can be a confusing and stressful time in your life, doing research and taking the time to translate your resume can help reduce your anxiety. Keep these things in mind, and talk to recruiters as though they have no military experience. You will open more opportunities, leading to a successful civilian career.
August Nielsen is the Human Resources Director for Veterans United Home Loans and is responsible for hiring over 1,000 employees in the past five years. Veterans United was recently named the #1 job creator nationally in the financial industry by Inc. Magazine, as well as making the Great Places to Work Top 25. Connect with August on Google+.
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