Leaving the Military? Here’s Your To-Do List for Getting Hired

Regardless of the length of your time of service, closing out a career as a veteran can be a daunting task. It’s hard enough to get your personal life on a civilian schedule, and then you have to tackle your civilian career.

Fortunately, many have gone before you to transition into excellent and fulfilling careers using military experience. And the process starts when you position yourself and your skills in a way that helps you identify possible careers and catch the interest of civilian recruiters.

If you’re looking to get back into the workforce after a short or long military career, here are four things you can work on today from one veteran to another, featuring Army Veteran and Human Resources recruiting professional Toya Hamilton.

Start networking before the paperwork is final

Don’t wait until you’re discharged to start identifying possible networking opportunities in your new field. The time to network is before you get out of the service.

“The most important thing I did was was networking within my industry,” says Hamilton, “Ninety-nine percent of all my job leads and offers came from networking with people in my field. And even better? Those contacts helped me form my own network by telling me who I needed to talk to and what my resume needed to look like. Networking is what will get your resume out there and let people see it.”

Be open to constructive criticism–and don’t be afraid to step down to step up

While you might have a valid need for reassurance as you start job hunting outside of the military, Hamilton adds that it’s important to be open to constructive criticism.

“Don’t be thin-skinned,” she says.” Be open to constructive criticism and turn it around and apply to your job hunt, resume and cover letter. For me, I asked for feedback from my industry connections and got excellent feedback about particular parts of my resume that weren’t strong enough. I took that advice to heart and sought out experience that would round-out what I brought to the table as a job candidate.“

Part of this process, Hamilton says, is being confident enough to step down in order to step up. “Take another job based on the skill set you do have, even if it pays less or is less prestigious. Work your way up to achieve your ultimate goal if it’s not working out for you from the beginning. It may be uncomfortable financially, but that’s why you have to plan ahead before you get out of the military.

Seek out certifications before you get out

“A lot of military members think military experience is good enough and they don’t understand why they don’t end up with the job,” says Hamilton. “We see where we fit, but we can’t show other people that we can do the job. That’s why it’s so important to verify the skills that you have with visible credentials and certifications.”

When you first depart from military service, your career path might be obvious to you based on skills and experience. But there are other parts of the civilian world that might escape your experience. “For example,” says Hamilton, “As a military HR recruiter, I worked with people and managed leaders. But I didn’t have extensive experience with the business side of things such as managing benefits and pay scales. Counting on everyone understanding and valuing your experience isn’t good enough. You need to get certifications within your field that can provide universal assurance to HR managers that you meet the qualifications and can do the job.”

Explain your training and experience

Finally, make sure that your resume properly translates your experience by connecting the dots for the HR manager on paper. If possible, find someone who can translate your resume from military to civilian language for you.

“Military personnel, we’re limited. Our minds don’t think like that, and our terminology is completely different. But if you don’t translate your skills on your resume using the words that the HR manager includes in the job description, you won’t get the interview. If you get the interview but not the job, on the other hand, you need to work on explaining your position correctly.”

Hamilton shares that Hire Heroes was a great resource, and she used the site to work with a resume coach that made it easier for her to interview and get the job. Many other sites offer consulting and job support to veterans, and you can access those links here.