by Bradley Hood
A few days ago I read an article by Kathleen Lucadamo in the New York Post regarding the difficulties of a sample of New York based veterans in finding employment. While the article was brief one of the veterans, a Marine by the name of Luis Correia, made a statement which made a lot of sense to me: “They wanted a veteran – but not a veteran’s experience”. One of the greatest challenges veterans have when thrust back into the civilian job market is finding a way to make their experience relevant. For many civilian employers with no military experience, there is an expectation that a veteran will offer not only all the benefits traditionally associated with the military – discipline, hard work, initiative – but will also have competency and experience in their field. Unfortunately, many veterans either do not have the experience desired (can an infantryman usually make a case for advanced Microsoft Excel skills based on his job experience?) or do not know how to translate their different yet related experience into a format which not only makes sense to a civilian employer, but stands out. While there is certainly a number of varied and intensive processes of selection within the military, not too many first term service members come out knowing how to write a good resume, and even if they do, what exactly to put on it.
This brings me back to Correia’s statement that employers wanted veterans, but not the experience that veterans have. There is some truth in this statement, and I have experienced a lot of rejection in my own job hunting over the past five years in the reserves. Although without fail being a Marine helped me, one of the main problems I had was a lack of specific experience. The good news is that there is hope. I addressed the challenge of translating military experience into a resume in a past blog, but I will briefly reiterate some of what I said here: 1. Examine your experience and compare it against your ideal job posting. Find out exactly what your target employer is looking for in a candidate, and try to find areas in your service which may line up. For example, although I was a Bulk Fuel Specialist, as a Corporal I also had leadership and training responsibilities, and have easily been able to integrate this into my resume for supervisory positions in security (the field I currently work in while I wait for active duty orders). 2. Have a civilian friend or two look over your resume – try to select friends with professional experience, and if possible, someone who is in the field you are looking to get into. They will know what kind of a resume works, and will ask you questions when something does not make sense to them. Even as a reservist with plenty of civilian interaction, a friend of mine pointed out to me that she could not understand half of my resume, a result of her lack of experience with the military, but also indicative of how some civilian employers might see my resume as well! 3. If all else fails, there are plenty of military resume conversion services who produce a civilian palatable resume based on your experience and target profession. I can not speak from experience as to the quality or price of these services, but it is an option.
A few final thoughts: Education is an excellent tool your job hunting, but make sure you actively set goals for yourself. I am earning a graduate degree in Military History, and I thoroughly enjoy it. However, history degrees do struggle to find employment if they do not possess specific experience. In my case, I have a contract to go to flight school in the Marine Corps, and afterward intend to pursue a PhD and eventually teach at the college level. As I love history, I would never tell someone not to pursue a degree in it, but start thinking about your career now. Find an internship in a field related to what you want to do – even if it is unpaid, it will pay in experience which gives you the edge when you go to find a civilian career. Certifications are another option. No experience with the Microsoft Office Suite? There are certifications and training which can give you an edge over someone with no experience. The job market is not an easy place, but with careful assessment of your experience and goal oriented education and training, a career should be easily within reach of any veteran.
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American Military University (AMU) has service members and veterans studying with us around the world, supported by a vast array of staff and faculty who are also veterans. As a result, AMU truly understands the specific needs of our country’s veterans. To support you, we have dedicated advisors skilled at addressing the questions veterans face when enrolling in school, such as how to utilize benefits for financial aid. And, if you are a veteran with a disability, you are not alone. AMU has staff trained at empowering our disabled veteran students to succeed.