America’s recent military veterans — especially young enlisted members completing a single term of service — continue to lag behind their civilian peers in finding high-quality jobs that take advantage of their education, skills and experience.
According to a 2015 report from the Bureau of Labor, young post-9/11 veterans are three times more likely to be unemployed than the average American, despite military skills, experiences and accomplishments that could be valued by the civilian job market — even though they are not always easily translatable.
Veterans seeking employment are facing challenges upon returning to the civilian workforce. In theory, there are a lot more jobs open to veterans than there are unemployed vets. In practice, however, there is a disconnection between the supply of job-market-ready veterans and companies that want to hire them.
That’s where the Call of Duty Endowment comes in. The Endowment is America’s preeminent philanthropic veteran placement organization, which has helped over 16,000 veterans start meaningful careers since 2009. The endowment provides funds to the top organizations that prepare veterans for the job market and seeks to persuade employers that it’s in their interest to hire former service members.
I spoke with Dan Goldenberg, Executive Director of the Endowment and a commander in the Navy Reserve, to get his thoughts on how returning military veterans can find and land a dream job. His suggestions:
1. Set goals
It’s pointless to start a job search unless you know the following three pieces of information:
- Where do you want to live?
- Which industry do you want to work in?
- Which job function do you want to perform? This is the question that stumps most veterans without civilian work experience and refers to occupations like marketing, finance, IT, sales, etc.
2. Gather intelligence
Do extensive research on the industries, functions and companies that you are interested in. Here are some key questions to answer:
- What are the long-term growth prospects for your chosen industry?
- What are the top three companies in the industry and what is the corporate culture like?
- What are the experience and education requirements for functions of interest?
- Are there special training or apprenticeship programs offered in the industry?
If selected for an interview, veterans should conduct similar research on hiring companies before they go in for interviews. Use sites like LinkedIn to learn about hiring managers: what their positions are, any personal connections you may have with them, and if possible, their own career journeys.
3. Build your network
Developing a civilian network is key to finding a good job today. Determine what you want to do and who you need to meet. Building a great profile on networking sites such as LinkedIn is only a first step.
Networking should not be limited to the virtual world. Attend local meetups and trade shows to connect with recruiters and potential employers, and expand your overall network. Do so with a purpose — have a goal when going into these situations or you’re just wasting your time.
Perhaps most important, ask those in your current network for help, and don’t limit yourself geographically. Often the friend-of-a-friend connection makes the biggest difference. But, there are three important caveats to networking:
Never ask for a job in a networking situation, but do ask to learn about a person’s experience in a career area that interests you.
4. Tailor your resume
Your resume should address the job description of the position you are seeking. Take the time to match the language in the job description/posting with each resume you submit.
Consider your language and make sure that you are clearly communicating how your military skills translate to and are applicable for a civilian job. Unfortunately, you will not be a good judge of this. Have non-veteran friends or family members read your resume and ask them to point out any wording they do not understand.
5. Refine your interviewing skills
Before heading into an interview, write down the three main points or takeaways that you would like to leave with your interviewer. Make sure that these points are succinct; yet still tell a story about your background.
Fit them into a “situation to action to result” format. Spend a very brief time (no more than 30 seconds) setting up the background, spend the bulk of the time describing what you did that exhibits something important to the interviewer about yourself, then provide results demonstrating the effectiveness of your action.
Then, practice, practice, practice. Rehearse your points for friends, family, or in front of the mirror to make sure you can integrate them into your conversation with your interviewer.
By the way, there’s no excuse for not having great, polished answers for why you’re interested in the industry, company and specific position; you will most certainly be asked these questions. No one was ever turned down for a job for being too prepared!
6. Follow up
Once you’ve nailed your interview, make sure to thank your interviewer for his or her time with a personal note. A short but well-written email goes a long way in an era of less formal communication. Carefully proofread your communication. Use this opportunity to reinforce your enthusiasm for the job and the skills you bring to the position.
Most importantly, Goldenberg emphasizes that there are a lot of great organizations out there that are ready to help veterans with their job search. You can find some of the most outstanding oneshere.