This post is dedicated to the student veterans of Fairleigh Dickinson University. We have formed a university wide networking group to identify and collaborate the student, faculty, staff, and alumni veterans to support each other and open new opportunities.
This past Wednesday, I had the opportunity to pick up my cap and gown for graduation and attend “Uniform to Workplace” seminar in Fairleigh Dickinson University. It was a wonderful opportunity to see veterans from different branches of service to cover topics such as networking, job search, interviewing, etc. I will attempt to give my best advice for recently transitioning veterans into the work force.
Before I start.. I want to say congratulations for your honorable discharge.. you are my HERO!
As you transition away from military life you two path’s to follow. Think of the classic board game “The Game of LIFE.” You have two routes, Career and College. Both routes can lead you to greater success, but in my opinion I value the importance of education. If you decide in a career after serving (Congrats.. many veterans wishes they can be in your shoes) I advise you to go to college part time, pursue certification programs, or even online degrees (from leading universities). If you pursue the college route.. I advise you to gain civilian experience, through internships and volunteering. Both routes routes are great opportunities and just like the board game, you are likely to land a better and higher paying job with having a college degree.
So now you chosen your pathway and your looking to enter the workforce. Now the bad news is that most veterans can face major roadblocks in making the transition from the uniform to workplace. It is a fact the the percentage of unemployed veterans is far greater than the national average. The good news, the roadblocks I am about to present to you can be overcome with the skills, talent, and experiences you developed while serving in the military. Here are some tips:
Roadblock #1: Having the lack of knowledge in the civilian world, the work place, typical positions, and how to find them.
What is the best way to gain the information. In the seminar, they stressed the value of networking! I’m not a subject matter expert on networking but I am learning and actively networking. The days of applying to jobs online through monster, careerbuilder, and other sites is far over. The difficulty of getting a job today is like breaking into a castle front door with a moat, no drawbridge, and archers ready to fire at you. The best and maybe the only way is to be escorted through the backdoor.
My mentors suggest start establishing connections. I met with one of the top Media Strategist at UBS who found me on Linkedin.com (join this site). He thought it was interesting to see a Marine pursue an MBA, so he volunteered to share his thoughts. He advised me that one thing he did not do while he was going for his MBA in MIT was aggressive networking. His advice is to start joining special interest groups and expose yourself as much as possible. Join special interest groups in which people from the company you want to work for might have an interest in. Seek out a senior manager or executive find their email through Linkedin or through a reference and send them a kind email seeking advice (not a job) and direction. Most people will be willing to provide their input and the worst that can happen is not having a response. Another suggestion is to keep attending seminars, workshops, and be active in something you love. If you love running, join the New York Road Runners. There are thousands of runners every weekend who share one thing in common with you; it is also a great opportunity to meet people, stay active, and network.
In summary: You have the experience, now get more experience and education. Try to utilize your leadership, communication, and development skills you learned in the military and apply it.
Roadblock #2: Not fully understanding or selling your military experience.
I was a Sergeant in the Marine Corps and a LVS Operator. How can I put that down on a resume if I want to apply to jobs such as Project Manager or Business Analyst? Think deeply about your military experience. What have you learned? How does your experience apply to the work you want to pursue? Consider all the professional development and leadership courses you look (for example Corporals Course). How can your leaderships skills apply to the workplace? How can being a platoon sergeant relate to management in the workplace?
Identity your key talents. This will give you an opportunity to draw your core competencies and how to sell those to an employer. Examples are: Innovate Leadership, Training and Development, Accomplished Spokesperson, Project Management, Internal Growth, etc.
However, some of your experience can work against you in this marketplace. Create a functional resume that highlights your achievements, leadership, awards, etc. rather than stating “you patrol dangerous territory, lead troops”.. Aside from that, your MOS in the military might not be the job you want to pursue in the civilian world. You have experience but not direct experience. Sell that you have POTENTIAL. Let them know in them know you have a strong ability to learn and prove it because you have done it before.
Document everything you have done. I write on wordpress to document my journey, experiences, and my mind. I am also documenting many values and skills I learned in the Marines. It gives good exercise to discover your potential and how GREAT you really are.
Most of all, be an active learner!! You are in the evolution process and entering a new life, be open to it and learn how to re-learn (triple loop learning).
Roadblock #3: Failure to develop personal commitment and desire.
What upsets me most are heroes that are now fallen heroes. I’m not talking about fallen troops in combat, but heroes who returned home and make nothing of themselves.
As it is hard to transition in this new world. Focus on your next chapter in your life and what you need to do towards that goal. I understand when you were in military it was a structured life with many internal rewards. You were part of something that is high impact and worked for a purpose. Guess what, those opportunities are here for you in the civilian world!
Create a mental picture: Imagine yourself in a parallel universe: if you stayed in the military your momentum is fast and see yourself moving up the ranks to Sergeant Major or if your an officer, you see yourself towards Colonel, perhaps even the General ranks. Take the momentum and apply that to the civilian world. Seek the pathway where you become an analyst –> Director —> VP—- CEO. Don’t lose that momentum and remain a true hero in your new world.
In conclusion, your military career will not only prepare you for the workplace but as you know will prepare you for life. As long as you keep those values and know your worth, you will thrive personally and professionally.
Why America’s Veterans are great hires, By Eli Amdur