Sunday, February 8, 2015
The civilian world and the civilian job market can be more than a little confusing for a newly separated veteran leaving years of military service. The job-market is far more restrictive than it has been in years, making it difficult for anyone to find work. Veterans, however, face particular challenges, and unless you understand those obstacles you may have trouble overcoming them.
Ideally, you will have planned for your separation. This means doing several things that are not always easy to do from the field. If you know you are on your way out, start saving your money. The bigger your savings account, the more cushion you will have when you separate. Finding a place to live and a job is hard enough, no need to compound that search by having little to know money to do it with. Reach out to family and friends back home to help you land a job, or at least to act as references for your applications. They can be your eyes and ears where they work, and let you know what positions become available as well as put in a good word for you. Get help writing your resume. If you have access to an adviser who is assisting you with your transition, enlist their aid in converting your military experience into civilian language.
When you are separated, connect with the VA, VFW, DAV, and other Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) in your area. They may be able to assist your job search, point you to employers hiring veterans, help with writing your resume, and suggest other resources of benefits you may be able to take advantage of. The less you need a job because your needs are being met through other methods, the easier it will be to find a job. Even if you only need to take advantage of benefits for a short period of time, the cushion will help ease the process.
Have the proper expectations about the job market. Your status as an Honorably Discharged Veteran carries some weight, but not as much as you might think. A newly separated Veteran competing for a job with a civilian with one-year's work experience in the civilian workforce will almost always lose to the civilian. Until you have proven civilian work experience, the benefit of being a Veteran in the eyes of an employer will not be worth much. It gives you a definite advantage over civilians who have the same amount of work experience, which means you will need to do some catching-up.
No doubt, you have interests that go beyond the military. It could be comic books, video-games, a favorite television show, anything. What ever it is, there is probably a social-club engaged in it. If you have an interest in art, music, writing, then there are public clubs and seminars for it. Get involved. Volunteer with local charities and non-profit organizations. This will help you bulk-up your resume and provide opportunities for you to network. That guy you were partnered with in a sushi making class may be the CEO of a local start-up looking to hire someone just like you.
Be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up. Whatever job you take, whether it is working security or flipping burgers, you want to be the best at it you can be. Bring all your military discipline and attitude to the task. Learn as much as you can about the business you are in and the company you work for. Actively seek promotion and express and interest in being trained to move-up. It does nothing but help your resume to show that you went from entry-level to team-lead in six months. You want to shine at what you do. Your friend from high school as a reference is great, but the district manager from the local franchise where you flipped burgers is a far better reference. Your minimum wage job should be seen as a stepping-stone to something better.
Look into temporary services. Temp Services are often used by employers to recruit new employees, giving them an opportunity to have a test-run with potential hires before they bring them in to work. Temp Services can also be a way to expand your skill-set and network, as you may have the opportunity to work for several businesses in your area.
Write a solid resume, and get help doing it. VSOs, your local library, and your local Community Colleges may all offer resume writing seminars and assistance. Your city's Health and Human Services or Employment Office may also help you with resume writing as well as your job search.
Make use of the Internet. Craigslist.org can point you to local jobs. Careerbuilder.com and Monster.com can help you find a job. Usajobs.gov and hireveterans.com are good resources for veterans seeking employment. Just keep in mind that you still need everything above to land those jobs; a solid resume, good references, and work experience.
Finding a job as a veteran takes time and perseverance, Do not assume that you are "owed" a job, instead a job is yours to earn. Be patient, disciplined, and persistent about your efforts, and you will get the job that you are looking for.
Jason Sorrell is a writer, tattooer, artist, and all-around nice guy living in Austin, Texas. He has lots of advice on a lot of things, and is always looking to learn more. Have a question? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.