Veterans bring a high level of leadership and transferable skills to employers that can influence the success of any company. Before employers start opening their doors, though, many veterans find the application and hiring processes challenging.
Sometimes, without previously holding civilian positions or having broader industry experience, it can be hard to navigate a job search effectively- particularly when it seems as if companies aren’t recognizing what your experience brings to the table.
Here are five things veterans should do while job searching:
In order to avoid feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, there are a few steps every veteran can take to achieve a happier – and more successful – job search. By tackling these steps one at a time, you’ll be well on your way to finding your next civilian job:
1. Create a Company Bucket List
As a veteran, you’re likely accustomed to an environment and camaraderie that was easily identified by your team’s loyalty and its shared values. No matter what branch you served in, part of your success came from the way you aligned with the values and mission of your organization.
Similarly, you’ll want to find a company that has a well-defined culture that speaks to you. To identify what’s important to you in an employer, create a Company Bucket List of places you’d love to work and list why.
Do you care about leadership opportunities? Professional growth and development? Community involvement? The culture in the military supported your well-being through its benefits and rewarding work. This should be no different from your civilian job. Find an employer whose work interests you and whose values mirror your own, and you will feel gratified by applying and more invested in the work when you get there.
For example, at a company like Foss Manufacturing, an American textile leader, you will find an employer who regularly seeks out veterans to join their team. Because it’s a company that values your strong work ethic, leadership, and ability to multitask, there’s a strong chance you’ll find your values and interests align well with Foss. Think they might be a fit for your “Company Bucket List”? Check them out here!
2. Find Your Mentor
Job searching is hard enough on its own, but there’s no reason you need to go it alone. Joshua Agan, a Crew Chief at Foss Manufacturing and former MOS 6227 Fixed-Wing Aircraft Power Plants Mechanic, F-404, explains that his mother was his mentor during his job search, who would keep her eye open for prospective jobs and relay them to him.
Whether it’s a family member, a trusted advisor, acquaintance, or friend, a mentor is someone who has your best interests at heart. They are willing to help you in any way they can while recognizing your skills and how they apply to civilian work.
A mentor should primarily be someone reliable, whose judgment you trust. If your mentor is someone with experience working as a civilian, they can provide honest guidance and feedback throughout your job search. Plus, it never hurts to have someone on your side to provide encouragement in the face of frustration and to celebrate with you for your successes!
3. Attend Job Fairs
A great way to engage employers and learn about potential job opportunities is by attending job fairs. While pouring over job boards can be daunting and discouraging at times, job fairs give you the opportunity to meet real people face-to-face and make an impression in ways that submitting a resume doesn’t always allow.
By interacting with recruiters and team members of prospective employers, you can identify jobs and companies that may be the right fit for you, while showcasing why you may be the right fit for their team.
Don’t let distance or time limit your attendance; even online career fairs can be a great source of networking with employers and other professionals and are often hosted on free, easy-to-use forums that work well on your nearest computer, smartphone, or tablet.
While it’s important to research the employers on your Company Bucket List to see if they’ll be attending a job fair near you, it helps to attend events with an open mind. You never know who you may meet or what opportunities you’ll discover at a job fair.
Take Josh Agan, for instance, who explains, “I wasn’t even exactly sure what I wanted to do for a career or job. I found out about Foss at a veterans’ job fair that the Georgia Department of Labor was hosting.” Now, he’s a Crew Chief!
4. Translate Skills
Possibly one of the hardest aspects of transitioning from military service to a civilian work is that the skills you’ve developed don’t always seem to translate exactly. Not to worry though – even though your experience can be different than a traditional civilian job, it doesn’t mean it won’t apply. In many cases, it’s just about finessing the language you use to describe your experience to help employers recognize why your skills are exactly what they need to fill a position. Josh points out that:
“The skills I learned from the military have been essential in excelling in my career. Sometimes when dealing with a difficult situation I refer back to what worked best while I was in the military. That said, my biggest challenge [in my job search] was trying to explain myself on a resume.”
Start by working to use keywords in your resume (and LinkedIn profile if you have one!) to represent the skills you possess. The right keywords will mirror the phrases or terms used most often in job descriptions to illustrate the required skills.
Next, quantify your accomplishments. If you were a leader, explain how many people or responsibilities of which you were in charge. If you met deadlines, describe how many assignments you managed. In particular, employers want to see how you can save (or earn!) them money, or solve a problem that they have. It’s important to explain how you did that in the military by saving money, materials, or effort, or by increasing quality or safety.
By qualifying what you achieved in the military in terms employers understand, you’re increasing your chances of getting noticed. When in doubt, reach out to your mentor or someone within your network to see how they perceive your resume and other application tools. Use their guidance to finetune the language.
5. Build Your Network
Perhaps most importantly, your network can be your best source of career help. Not only can your network provide support in the job search, but it can serve as a group of people who are willing to vouch for your talent and provide references.
Moreover, recruiters rate referrals as the highest-quality source of candidates. The greater number of connections you have can only increase the likelihood of someone referring you to a position where they think you’d be a great fit. And, since recruiters trust referrals most, who better to refer you than someone in your network who believes in the quality of your skills?
Build your network not only by attending career fairs, but by reaching out on LinkedIn and other social platforms. Even strangers are willing to connect if you provide a good reason for contacting them. Keep in touch with your military connections, and when you’re in the civilian workforce, don’t be afraid to help each other out or ask someone you know for a referral!
If you keep an open mind and are willing to work hard, you’re going to be successful.
Even if it takes time to adjust or to navigate the job search outside the military, don’t get discouraged. You’ve already proven that you are willing to go above and beyond to show your commitment and strong work ethic through your service. There are many companies which value that and are excited to have you on their team. Like Josh advises his fellow veterans, “Stay persistent!”
Looking for a company that wants to hire veterans?
Check out Josh Agan’s employer, Foss Manufacturing! They are hiring and love to employ hard-working veterans who have a knack for leadership or want an opportunity to grow.
Foss Manufacturing Company, LLC is a well-known leader and pioneer in the use of nonwoven fabrics and specialty synthetic fibers in an ever-expanding number of environments. It’s driven by innovation and the team takes pride in its ability to pioneer solutions to complex problems.
Foss’ approach to problem-solving combined with the experience and skills of our team members enable it to consistently provide products that exceed its customers’ expectations.
Veterans are welcomed to put their problem-solving skills to use with Foss!