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5 job-hunting tips for military veterans back in the workforce

By Ana Isabel Alonsagay

In times of war and peace, our veterans are to thank for protecting and serving the nation. As of 2019, Australia ranked 21st in global military strength, having active personnel of 60,000 service members

Though having unique, noble experiences of combat, rescue operations, and various other missions, each building advanced, practical skillsets of their own – our country still faces a 30.2% unemployment rate among veterans. The struggles of moving to more “civilian” career paths are real, though are completely conquerable with the right guidance and resources.

SkillsTalk outline five effective tips to seeking employment in your ideal industry as a military veteran.

How can military veterans transition back to the workforce?

  1. Plan and prepare early.
  2. Network as much as possible.
  3. Evaluate your options (with realistic expectations).
  4. Practise your interview skills.
  5. Write a quality civilian resume.

1. Plan and prepare early.

To ensure a smooth, successful transition, experts and former veterans recommend having a head start on career plans. 

In fact, former U.S. Army captain (and current manager of the employment services agency, National Able Network) Bridget Altenburg suggests preparing a full year beforehand; helping you ease from military to civilian life in the least abrupt, stressful way possible.

This includes figuring out your accommodation, education pathways, and the types of professions you may be interested in. 

Veterans are also encouraged to take advantage of their available resources. Those in Australia are provided with a wide range of transition services, plenty of which fall under the government’s Veteran’s Employment Program

These include a generous collection of online guides, job portals, and access to transition seminars, coaching services, and employment assistance. Financial support, such as the Career Transition Assistance Scheme (CTAS), is also available to veterans – helping them train for their civilian career path while funding their basic needs

Transitioning from military service can be a stark lifestyle change, but with proper planning paired with the right mentorship, veterans can hit the ground running in their civilian job search.

2. Evaluate your options (with realistic expectations).

planning concept

An honest, thorough self-evaluation is crucial to your preparation. Deciding on your ideal industry and career is a helpful starting point, though be sure to do your research – comparing the qualifications of your desired career to your current skillset. 

If you haven’t developed the proper skills and experience yet, that’s okay; it at least helps to map out the necessary steps towards achieving your career goals. As stated by former marine force corpsman Art Peña, “Have a clean understanding of how you’ll get there… take an active part in your career and in your transition. Don’t just passively stand by.”

This, of course, involves looking at the current roles available to fulfill the job experience and expertise you need in working your way up the ladder. Assess open positions that match your current skill level, and perform an honest self-reflection of your competencies; ensuring they meet the requirements in question. 

It also helps to set pragmatic expectations of your new field, understanding average salary potential and common benefits. Your earnings, allowances, and perks received from working in the military may not necessarily apply to your civilian job. 

Additionally, try reaching out to “veteran-friendly” employers – those with initiatives in helping veteran recruits with their career transition. Such support can include additional training and flexible work options. These companies also place a strong focus on the work ethic and collaborative skills of veterans, making them a highly sought-after candidate group. 

3. Network as much as possible.

You never know which connection will land you that full-time career.

Once you’ve developed an idea of your career path, do all you can to broaden your opportunities – a large portion of this being meeting new people

These could be existing professionals in the field, friends-of-friends (or relatives), and online communities. Even a military friend may turn out to be a valuable connection.

Other, employed veterans are great sources of knowledge, as they’ve ventured the same career journey with successful results. They may even direct you toward companies who are well known for veteran employment, and provide assistance in translating and developing your skills for the civilian workforce. 

U.S. Marine Major Nick Swaggert tells that finding “veteran sympathisers” may also be beneficial, such as “parents and spouses [of veterans]”, as they would likely “love to help coach, guide, and mentor.” 

Of course, never underestimate the power of social media. Veterans are recommended to use platforms such as LinkedIn or Facebook during their job search, which help publicly market their skills online, as well as digitally connect with potential employers. Participating in online groups (or creating your own) is another effective way of staying relevant and visible among other professionals in your desired industry. 

4. Practise your interview skills.

man waiting before a job interview

Both body and verbal language can vastly differ between military and civilian work. Veterans must thus take care in “demilitarising” themselves when speaking to potential employers – and this is where practising your interview skills can come in handy.

While you may have been used to specific lingo and terminology at the military, companies have their own corporate language both managers and employees abide by. As you craft your interview pitch and drafted answers to mock questions, be sure to get in touch with these “civilian”, corporate terms. 

It’s also important to practice dynamic intonations, rather than sticking to a monotone voice – a common trait of veterans in the military world. Rehearse your interactions to appear more personable and engaging, as this helps you in building a solid rapport with the interviewer.

Experts also suggest preparing thoughtful questions prior to attendance, to provide you a more thorough understanding of the job and employer expectations. 

However, consider if the company would be a good fit for you, as well. Irrelevant interview questions that pry at your military experience (such as if you’ve ever fired a weapon, or if you’ve hurt anyone) are often a sign of bad culture fit, and is worth re-evaluating as a worthy employment choice. 

5. Write a quality civilian resume.

Lastly, you’ll want a resume that stands out and shows off your current, employable skills. 

As with your verbal language in job interviews, it’s imperative you tailor your writing to more simple, civilian terms. Adorning your resume with military jargon will only confuse the recruiter, damaging their first impressions. 

Never assume an employer understands the value and details of your military experience. Plenty, in fact, tend to underestimate one’s level of responsibility during service; so rather than simply making your military ventures known, consider the broader skills you’ve gained during your time. Explain how these can bring valuable, quality work to the role – and use keywords from the job description where possible

Veterans are recommended to anticipate any possible questions an employer might have about their resume or cover letter, and address these enquiries through their writing. Additionally, acronyms, military time, military titles and even accolades (if irrelevant) are considered non-essential

To ensure your resume is as civilian-friendly as possible, it may help having a non-military friend or relative look over your writing. Chances are, if they have trouble understanding specific experiences or qualifications – your potential employer will, too.

Transitioning to the workforce? Upskill for your dream industry

Shifting from the military world to the civilian career path may come with its challenges, but the right training and resources can lead you right to your ideal job. 

Upskilled offers over 80 nationally-recognised courses in numerous fields – from information technology to community services. For transitioning war veterans, school graduates and aspiring professionals alike; these courses train you in the foundational skills to seek out your desired industry. Best of all, they’re 100% online, helping you study according to your personal needs and schedule. 

Sharpen your skills for the workforce, and enquire on a course today.
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