Re-entering the civilian job market after 3 or 30 years of service in the military (THANK YOU!) can seem daunting, even to the most battle-hardened warriors. Not to worry! You have faced - and overcome - much tougher situations, starting with basic training a while ago!
Just remember that "know your enemy" still applies, except replace "enemy" with "target employer." You know your mission. "Attack" this task with the superior strategic and tactical planning skills you have, and you'll know what you need to do.
Mission: Figure Out What You Want to Do
Think of this as defining the mission: You want to find a job as a ... (what, exactly?)
Not knowing what you want to do will make the difference between a successful vs. an unsuccessful mission. Would you go to war with the plan "kill the enemy"? No, you would define the enemy, learn all you could about them, figure out the best time, place, and method to attack, etc.
You wouldn't just grab a weapon and run around firing. Same with job hunting, exactly the same thing!
The first question you will be asked is, "What are you looking for." Without an answer, preferably in 25 words or less, you're dead in the water.
Be as specific as possible! Avoid generic responses like - "working with people," "I'm a results-driven problem solver," or "I could do anything you need." Those are useless non-starters, covering everything from taking orders at McDonald's to painting houses, making movies, and about every other job you could name. It tells nothing about what you really could do for an employer..
This may be the toughest part of your job search - what job to do next. You may have hundreds of jobs you think you could do, but you must narrow it down to one or two options, at most, that really interest you. If you don't know, as specifically as possible, what work you want to find, you won't have an effective job search, and people can't help you.
- The classic book, What Color Is Your Parachute, and its accompanying Website, JobHuntersBible, will provide you with a great deal of assistance in figuring out what you want to do for work. The book is updated every year, so look for the latest year at your bookstore or your local library.
Do all the exercises. Yes, it takes some time (several hours, not several weeks), but the payoff for you covers the time investment.
- Find a Job - excellent basic information and a step-by-step job search guide from the state of Minnesota, with an excellent section for veterans, including information and resources.
- Pick your state out of Job-Hunt's list of state employment offices by state. These offices are set up to help residents find jobs. You'll find employment counselors, job listings, tests, classes, etc. there for you, mostly for free or very low cost.
- America's Career InfoNet offers an astonishing amount of information on the civilian job market, by state, including the job outlook through 2014 for most industries and professions. Pick a bright future.
Logistics, Support, and Intelligence:
- DOL Information -
US Department of Labor provides extensive resources for veterans including the VETS Fact Sheet which explains many programs and offers links to more information about disabled vets and local support. O*NET's "Military Crosswalk" aligns your MOS with Federal job classifications to help you focus your Federal job search. Can also help you see other civilian parallels, as well.
- OPM VetGuide -
A centralized collection of all the information for veterans interested in working for the U.S. Federal Government, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
- Support -
National Resource Directory, an amazing collection of information with links to hundreds of resources, from the Department of Defense, an online partnership for wounded, ill, and injured service members, veterans, their families, and those who support them.
Also check out TURBOTAP.org, "Your connection to money, benefits, and jobs" for additional resources from DOD.
- Intelligence -
- Yellow Ribbon Program - pays tuition and fees at many state colleges and provides funds for many private colleges and universities, including many graduate schools (e.g. Harvard Law School) for veterans and their eligible dependents, as part of the Post9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008.
- National Association of Veterans Upward Bound Project has some training available for qualifying veterans and the new GI Bill
for service members on active duty after 9/11 also has provisions for qualifying veterans to help funding the education that next job may require.
Note: you may need another copy of your DD Form 214 (a.k.a. DD-214, your "discharge papers"). If you don't have a copy or can't find it, you may place a request through the National Archives online to get a new copy.
Your New Weapons:
You need a couple of weapons and some new tactics before you launch your mission -
People trying to help you and employers will need a copy of your resume to remind them who you are and what your qualifications are. The support organizations probably offer guidance and people who will review your resume to offer feedback and suggestions for improving it. There are also numerous books, software, templates (free in Microsoft Word, if you have that), and Websites to help.
Job-Hunt Resume Job Search Expert, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Resume, Susan Ireland provides free resume advice here on Job-Hunt and also on her own resume site, SusanIreland.com, including everything from sample resumes and sample cover letters to sample thank you notes. Use these excellent samples as starting points, of course, don't just copy them.
- Business Cards
Your local office superstore will print 500 copies of a business card for you to hand out to potential employers and to networking contacts. You can also purchase paper for your computer printer to print them yourself (they aren't quite as professional feeling and they aren't cheap, but they do offer you a great deal of flexibility).
To protect your privacy (and your family), limit the contact information on your business cards to a personal or job-hunting-only e-mail address (from Gmail, HotMail, MSN, Yahoo, etc.) and a cell phone or other untraceable phone number.
This is how you get things done in the civilian world. Contact the people you know, and get (and stay!) reconnected with them, whether you knew them in high school or college, in your unit, or in another life. Liz Ryan and Robyn Greenspan, Job-Hunt's Networking Expert, offer wonderful advice for succeeding at networking.
- Social Media
Jason Alba, Marci Reynolds, Miriam Salpeter, and Joshua Waldman offer excellent advice on how to leverage social media for job search, too. Check them all out.
The primary social network for job seekers is LinkedIn. Read the articles in Job-Hunt's LinkedIn for Job Search section for expert advice. A good LinkedIn Profile is usually a necessity for finding a job these days. Some employers don't care, but most do, and LinkedIn is a very good site for networking with potential employers, connecting with former colleagues and fellow students, and expanding your professional network. Also, check out Job-Hunt's free ebooks about leveraging LinkedIn - LinkedIn for New Grads (useful for anyone getting started with LinkedIn) and Branding and Your LinkedIn Profile.
- Reputation Management
Online reputation management is not optional now. Employers typically Google job applicants before inviting them in for an interview. We have help on Job-Hunt in these articles: Defensive Googling in 5 Steps, Online Reputation Management, and Social Proof, among many. The best defense is a good offense, as you know, so get up to date on this topic as quickly as you can.
- Online Job Search Tutorial
This section of Job-Hunt walks you through today's job search process. It won't take you long, and it should be very helpful.
You have survived boot camp and, maybe, combat, too. This is a piece of cake in comparison. Really!
If you have any questions or issues you'd like covered, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author...
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff "graduate" who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 1998, her company, NETability, Inc. purchased Job-Hunt.org, and Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt since then. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+
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