If you’ve served in the military, your chances of being homeless are higher. It’s unfortunate, but a fact: U.S. veterans account for more than 21 million people, or about 9 percent, of the nation’s adult population, but about 11 percent of the homeless population. Veterans’ unemployment rate hovers at around 5 percent. All said, a smooth transition isn’t a given between military and civilian life—so it’s vital that you learn how your experience can translate into non-military job skills, be realistic, and seek help when you need it if you don’t want to be counted among the negative statistics.
Don’t underestimate your experience.
Maybe your background doesn’t perfectly match the job for which you’re applying. No matter. Less than 30 percent of college grads have jobs related to their college degree. One important thing to understand, according to Jason Gray, a veteran and former special operations Team Leader, is that in most cases, hiring managers are seeking an ability to quickly learn and adapt even more than a list of specific experiences.
“By virtue of being a large government enterprise, the military’s inefficiency and disorganization has probably thrust you into situations for which you were unprepared. You adapted and got through it,” Gray said.
One of the main attributes he looks for, now being on the hiring end, is whether a potential employee demonstrates a capacity for autonomy or if, on the flip side, the person seems like they’ll need constant supervision.
Be the kind that takes initiative. Demonstrate skills like critical thinking, flexibility, ownership and independence, and draw from your military experience to showcase these qualities. As Gray says, “Capitalize on your trainability.”
Know your limits.
Yes, you served the country, and yes, you gave up a lot to do so; however, employers do not owe you employment.
“You knew about the physical, emotional and spiritual hardships, volunteered to serve in spite of this, and collected a paycheck for your time. You are a veteran, not a victim, and you’re not entitled to employment, “ Gray explained.
Veterans seeking employment should also tailor their experience to their audience. As much as employers may want to hear about “High Value Targets you helped capture” or “Air Assault missions completed,” those accomplishments may not convince them why you should be their next Loan Documents Coordinator.
Customize your resume to any given job and cut the military jargon. If you write out your experiences and make a list of quantifiable goals you’ve helped accomplish during your time in the service, taking care to omit classified information, you may be surprised at how much you’ve accomplished. Hiring managers will likely be impressed as well.
You have to work to get employed and stay employed. And it is work. So do your research; take time to prepare your resume, practice for the interview and understand the details of the job itself.
Ask for help.
The public sector has great resources for veterans in transition. Military One Source is an excellent website where you can find 24-hour services for everything from family to legal matters to health, education and jobs included. For example, you can get your resume revised and find training opportunities.
Know that as a veteran, you’re not alone. Your experience, adaptability and good support can help you land the civilian career you’re seeking.
Renee Cole – Content Creator