Military veterans can land a $100K+ job upon returning to civilian life — if they know how to translate their experiences for corporate hiring managers. Here are six tips to help vets make the transition:
1. “Civilianize” your resume. While military veterans have developed many of the same senior-level capabilities as civilian workers, they often have a difficult time translating these skills on their resumes. For example, a veteran with a senior artillery role should avoid writing about weaponry and focus on the underlying achievements of his/her position. Highlight that you have led a very large team; managed, organized, and had oversight for large shipments of fragile inventory; and had experience with distribution, supply chain, inventory and logistics. These are all transferable skills. This is how the resume needs to be framed.
2. Talk the talk of the job you seek. Do extensive research on the company and industry before going in for an interview for a senior-level position. If you can relate to the job on the employer’s terms, you’re in a much better position to tie your own experiences to the specific challenges the company faces.
3. Show how military success can translate in the corporate world. For the jobseeker, interviews are about sharing your accomplishments. It’s important to be able to demonstrate how your military successes can meet a corporate employer’s needs. Your achievements should be quantitative in nature, as much as possible, and establish ways that you reduced costs, increased productivity, improved quality, and so forth. As you’re sharing your achievements, also be sure to let the employer know what kind of person your experiences have made you — someone who thrives under pressure, or has little tolerance for errors, for example. Every corporation needs people like this.
4. Don’t treat the interviewer like your commanding officer. Leave out the ‘yes sirs’ and ‘no ma’ams.’ Avoid using military lingo — the jargon and acronyms — in both your resume and your job interview. And while it may be tempting to spend time discussing the juicy details of dangerous missions or exciting adventures, don’t do it unless you’re specifically asked. The interviewer may be entertained by your anecdotes — but these stories are also a reminder of the differences, rather than the similarities, between military and civilian work.
5. Don’t limit yourself. Many times, military veterans are their own worst enemies in a job search. They think they have to find a job that is as close to what they did in the Army or Marines as possible. Veterans often apply for jobs in a single field, such as law enforcement or with defense contractors, because ‘they’re the only ones who will know where I’m coming from.’ These applicants are unnecessarily limiting themselves. The fact that you carried a gun or rode in a tank doesn’t define you. It’s simply the context in which you developed some very valuable skills — such as managing a large number of people, for example — often at a younger age than you would have had a chance in the civilian world.
6. Seek support. Network with other military veterans who have successfully transitioned into senior-level positions in the corporate world. These people can be your most valuable resource — and can provide emotional support as well. On the Web, Miltary.com, RecruitMilitary.com and CivilianJobNews.com are all excellent resources.