Social Media Tips for Military in Transition

There is excellent advice here on on developing your online presence, branding, and use of social media (see the bottom for links to more information).

Transitioning military have several special issues.

Your Social Media Launch

Start at least one year before the date you expect to leave active duty.

Starting early gives you time to:

  • Learn how to use social media effectively for job search.
  • Research career fields and target companies.
  • Reconnect with people you know.
  • Build your professional network.
  • Develop relationships with people who might help you.

None of this is set in concrete, so you can change and should change your social media profiles as your goals become more clear, but waiting to start until after you have left active duty will handicap your job search.

[Related: Social Media Success Strategies for Veterans.]

Start with LinkedIn

Whether you are creating your first LinkedIn profile or already have one, an effective LinkedIn Profile is vital to your job search.

Other social media can also be used, but LinkedIn is designed specifically for business so learn to use it well.

[Related: LinkedIn for Job Search.]

Your Photo in Social Media

Once you are thinking transition, change your profile photograph to one in civilian clothes. This shows you are making the mental transition back to the civilian world. It entices hiring managers, recruiters, and potential contacts to look at your profile.

Choose a picture that is head and shoulders view, in standard business attire, where you are smiling. Senior level? Have a professional headshot. They are nice, but a great personal photo or selfie can also work.

Many military have a difficult time using a civilian photo. This is a regular discussion point online and in transition programs.

Far too many think that their “fruit salad” or rank will impress civilians. But, mostly, it sends the message “I am not ready. I don’t want to change.”

[Related: “Social Proof” Requires a Consistent Identity.]

What Information to Publish in Social Media

A LinkedIn profile offers you the opportunity to put your qualifications and achievements where over 90% of recruiters look for candidates.

Impress potential hiring managers and others who may be looking at it before meeting or helping you. So read all about ways to use your profile effectively here and on LinkedIn’s help site.

The biggest mistakes most military make are:

  • Lack of focus
  • Use of military lingo and acronyms
  • Limited or irrelevant achievements

[Related: Translating Military Experience.]

Target job.

For a useful profile, you must decide what you want to do next. Being vague means being invisible because the keywords to draw recruiters and employers will not be in your social profile.

Express your target in your headline. Demonstrate, using your past relevant achievements, how you can do what you want to do. Nothing else is as important as demonstrating your value for the employers you are targeting and the job you are interested in.

Most of us have enough variety in our military careers that we hate to leave anything out – we think we can do anything. But employers seek specific backgrounds, experiences, training, and achievements.

[Related: Focus for Success.]

Translate your military lingo.

Convert your standard language into terms that civilians can understand. It can be a challenge, but it is essential. Start with any of the military translators, but do not think they will solve all your issues.

Look at the profiles of other vets for ideas. Choose realistic, simple titles and terms.

Achievements are critical.

Look at your work but investigate additional duties and side jobs for relevant achievements too.

Think of past successes and create great stories from them. Then, pare them down to bullet points for your resume and profile. Quantify your achievements — you have very impressive numbers to share (people, miles, equipment value, etc.).

Be sure they are important to your target audience.

I recently reviewed a profile for an NCO who wanted to transition into human resources work. He had good skills and achievements. However, he buried them under bullets about weight control programs, drug testing, OJT administration, and other things that civilian HR doesn’t do. So his value was invisible.

Asking for Help

LinkedIn has a lot of great groups for veterans. Some are branch or career specific. Others are mentors, coaches, or educational, corporate, professional and advocacy organizations.

Learn to ask for specific help. Example: ask people in your desired work field to review your profile and make suggestions. Look at the profiles of people in the jobs you want to for ideas and tips. Ask your connections for info.


Be very careful where and how you vent online. These are public spaces, easily searched by potential employers.

People who whine, play victim, or are very negative are not people employers want to hire. I have heard that complaining constantly is now encouraged in the military. But, it is not viewed positively in the civilian world, and can hinder your success in job search!

Got LinkedIn up and working well? Then, look into Twitter, Tumblr, and all the others to see which might be best for you.

More Information About Social Media

Patra FrameAbout the author…

Patra Frame has extensive experience in human capital management and career issues in large and small corporations. She is an Air Force vet and charter member of The Women In Military Service for America Memorial.  Patra speaks and writes regularly on job search and career issues through her company Strategies for Human Resources (SHRInsight) and where she blogs advice for veterans and other job seekers. Watch Patra’s job search tips videos on YouTube, and follow her on Twitter @2Patra.
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