Advice for a Veteran Who Needs a Job

By John Durfee

One of the last things you worry about when coming home from serving your country in a time of war is post-service employment. Unfortunately, there is still a bit of a struggle when it comes to finding a job with ease outside of our armed forces for our veterans.

Despite incentives to hire our country’s vets, there is still about a 15% unemployment rate among returning vets out of the more than two million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. That’s unacceptable in my book. While combat training may not translate seamlessly to the civilian job market back home, there just might be more similarities than you’d think.

To begin, you will no doubt be highly suited to a career in some facet of law enforcement or security. Both physically and mentally, your training with the military has already prepared you for this and it might be something that interests you; something you can transition to quite easily. But if you’re looking to go in an entirely new direction, here are a few tips and guidelines to keep in mind:

Visit your transition office as soon as possible

Odds are, your transition office will sponsor at least one or two job fairs a year, which will give you a solid lead on real employers out there that are more than willing to hire you with your military/life experience. Transition assistance offices help in all sorts of ways; from resume writing to networking, job hunting and interviewing. Most, if not all, seem to offer 1-3 day classes for service members to hone the skills necessary to find a civilian job.

Create a flexible resume

Whether on your own or done with the help of your local transition office, this is a key component to making yourself marketable in today’s job market. This means creating a resume that you can readily change or edit to be of benefit to the specific company you are applying for employment with.

Market yourself strategically

While you know you’ve learned very valuable lessons from your career with the military, some employers still view you as having little to no actual business skills. Some may even think you’ve even fallen behind and have no relevant job skills at all! Of course, you’ve learned so many invaluable things such as teamwork and leadership in the military.

Marketing yourself in this way, pointing out all of your relevant (and seldom seen in the civilian world) job skills that may not have looked like skills at all, just good character. Dependability, punctuality and as I mentioned before, teamwork and leadership skills. These may seem like things not worth mentioning on a resume or at an interview, but they truly are since they are not qualities that everyone possesses.

Update your wardrobe

Unless you’re applying for something hands-on and physical (contractor, construction, mechanic, etc)?odds are you’ll need to do some clothes shopping. Remember that outside of showing up in a tuxedo, you’ll likely never be too dressed up. So, find something nice!

You can only make a first impression once and unless you have degrees to back up your claims of work related skills, what you wear on that first (and second) interview will reflect heavily on what sort of person you are.

Network, network, network

I can guarantee you aren’t the only one you know coming home and job hunting in the civilian world so it is important to make yourself available. Take advantage of visits to your transition office, since they likely have a message board up (either in house, online or even both) where you can get in touch with others in your same position. Employers may even prefer to hire vets, as they also served our country.

Maybe you’ll find a great website posted or a few veterans getting together somewhere to go over resumes and job opportunities that they’ve found on their own. At any rate, the more people you talk to the better off you’ll be. Networking is a vital part of finding quality employment these days, especially for veterans.

Never, never give up!

Bottom line: use your resources. The whole process of coming home and deciding to go in a different direction and apply for work outside of the military is daunting all on it’s own, not to mention actually finding a new job. The military does provide some decent resources but if it isn’t enough to get the ball rolling or land that new job: network.

As I mentioned above, you aren’t alone in your struggles to find a position. You have served your country with dedication and pushed yourself to be a better, stronger person. Keep your head up, pool your resources , work hard (as you’ve been doing) and stay dedicated – that job will be there faster than you think.

John Durfee is an Operation Freedom War veteran and markets Airsoft Guns at Airsplat, the nation’s largest seller of Airsoft Rifles.

( Photo from Flickr by The U.S. Army )

7 Responses to Advice for a Veteran Who Needs a Job

  1. My nephew just got back from Iraq and he is taking some time off to go to college. Luckily, there are a lot of jobs around here and he shouldn’t much trouble finding one. Since he was a medic in the Army, he wants to become a fireman.

  2. Hi Bret, that’s a good combination, Army medic to fireman. It does seem that for many coming out of the military, public service jobs–police, firemen, EMTs–are a natural fit. I’d tend to think that jobs in security, training and at defense contractors would also work well.

    The problems seem to be most accute when the vet wants to move into something unrelated. It does seem to work better when they go to college right after the military, as your nephew is doing. That seems to create a bridge into non-military related jobs.

  3. I am so GLAD you did this subject as it is one I wish I could do something about = we are not taking care of our vets!!! These folks left their loved ones to go protect us against some serious stuff, some come back injured and it is like they cannot get help. And while they are away from their families, the families are first struggling with the missing loved ones and then to have bills added on to the stress!!!!! Personally, I could not do what these brave people have done and every day my heart hurts when I run across someone who cannot get help. Now they are looking for jobs and not getting the help they need. Personally I feel they should be able to sit around and do nothing after they finish up with the military. They have earned this 🙂

    My Website: Surviving Unemployment!

  4. Hi Angela, I can’t claim credit for the post or the topic. John Durfee, a veteran, approached me about the topic, and I welcomed it because it’s one that isn’t well covered and should be. I’m thankful to John for the post, and for the valuable tips he’s given to help vets find their way.

  5. Hi, Kevin — First, I also think that a lot of the tips you provide here are good for any jobs-seekers, as well. Networking, flexible resumes, and self-marketing are all great strategies for anyone.

    Also, I agree that there are aspects from military training that translate into the job market, and that military specialization may also lead job-seekers into a new career branch when they return. It could take them to areas they hadn’t thought about previously, either. It’s a tough job market all around, too, so I know it can be discouraging.

    Finally, I hope that all of our vets get the treatment they deserve upon their return!

  6. To whom it may concern;

    You ran an article and a TV clip on hiring military veterans, it seems to me most companies around here are not concerned about hiring military veterans as being retired from the service now companies are hiring younger people with hardly any experience or no experience or attention to detail. I have applied for so many jobs on the Internet also through career link and it seems to me these companies do not need military veterans.

    I am now starting to know how older Veterans feel about working for civilians who never served in the military. I get the same old song and dance well I would’ve served but {I could never take orders.} But it’s my understanding these people have jobs and the veterans don’t.

    I recently retired from the service and have been laid off for nearly two years. I’ve also worked for temp agencies with referrals for maintenance technicians what all you get is jobs packing or warehouse jobs. I feel veterans are getting the short end of the stick when it comes to getting jobs.

  7. I didn’t run a TV clip, you’re confusing me for someone else. While everyone is talking up the job market, there are a lot of groups being passed over. You mention older veterans, but it seems anyone who’s older (over 50) is having trouble. I can see where it would be worse for veterans though. The job market heavily favors certain closely matching skill sets, and if you don’t have them you won’t even get a thank you letter, let alone a job. Employers mostly want people who are doing the exact job with a competitor, and there is no training. In fact, they don’t even want a learning curve. I’m hearning the same thing in regard to young people, probably because they don’t have specific skills either.

    I’m increasingly of the opinion that some form of self-employment is the best course for anyone who doesn’t have the hot skills du jour, and especially if you’re middle aged.

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