7 Tips to Help Veterans in Transitioning to Civilian Job Market

By Amelia Knott

If you’re in the middle of your transition, you’re probably feeling exasperated, discouraged and downright tired of the experience so far. Confronted with military resumes, hiring managers often have no idea how to make sense of the professional experience reflected in acronyms and job titles. More often than not, they prefer to choose candidates who boast experience they understand. But that doesn’t mean that there’s no space for veterans in the market. Instead of expecting recruiters to be impressed by your military achievements, you need to actively adapt to the market and speak their language.

Here are 7 tips to help you present your professional experience in a way that resonates with civilian recruiters and survive your transition.

  1. Set goals for yourself and develop a road map

As a military professional, you’re disciplined and know the value of a good plan. A transition is a process which promises success if each and every step is carefully planned ahead. Once you research the market and find jobs that resonate with you, check what you need to get there and outline all the steps.

A plan will motivate you in difficult moments and help you visualize the transition process. Don’t be passive – take an active part in your transition. Sometimes you might need to take one step back in order to move forward – remember that military hierarchy is different than corporate. Embrace the new civilian reality and make a good plan to move straight towards your goal.

  1. Find a mentor to help you transition

Search for someone who would be willing to share with you their expertise about the civilian job market. If you’re lucky you might find a former veteran who is eager to help those like you in transitioning. You can brainstorm career ideas together or simply talk about challenges that present themselves to you daily. You need someone like that, so don’t pass on any opportunity to befriend a person with this kind of expertise.

  1. Expect lots of unrelated questions

You’ll get many strange questions from recruiters, but don’t be surprised. Keep a straight face and answer them with a smile. It’s only natural that recruiters are curious about your military career, so there’s no need to get frustrated. Rather, take a step back and assess their questions – they actually show you a lot about company culture.

If recruiters ask you whether you’re suffering from PTSD or have ever fired a gun, it’s evident that the company is a bad fit for you. Actually, questions like the former one are illegal, so beware of hiring managers who ask them. Make sure that recruiters see something more than just your resume. Share your story and be open about your military experience.

  1. Learn to function in the market

You’ve probably never had to search for a civilian job, so don’t be surprised that the language used in job descriptions sounds completely unfamiliar. This is what makes your transition difficult, but don’t worry – this kind of knowledge is clearly within your reach. And it’s definitely worth it to learn more about the market as a whole – you might find that many jobs are nothing like they expected.

But once you get a grasp on the specific language used by recruiters, you’ll be able to understand whether the position is really for you. At this point, you’ll need to translate your experience into civilian terminology – you’ll have to get rid of all the acronyms and learn how to explain the practicalities of your previous jobs in plain language.

Show the degree of your responsibility for other people and military equipment. Describe how you handled professional relationships. These new ways of thinking about your military experience will be useful once you get a job interview and are asked questions by recruiters about your previous career.

  1. Choose further education carefully

Some veterans will discover that in order to pursue their desired career path, they need additional qualifications. This is where you need to be extra careful. A college degree is the second most important investment one makes after buying a house. You need to be sure that the degree will help you in getting closer to your professional objective. Avoid suspicious-looking colleges – do your research and consult with people who know their way around higher education.

  1. Beware of scammers

Veterans and current service members need to be careful about scammers who often use affinity marketing to appeal to their sense of loyalty and patriotism. For some companies, hiring a former military becomes a sly marketing scheme. Make sure to research the company before knocking on its door – you don’t want to end up in a place which uses your former career to sell questionable products.

  1. Be patient

Finally, you just need to be patient. It takes time for recruiters to process resumes, so don’t get frustrated or discouraged if you don’t hear back from them for a while. They need time to properly understand your qualifications, so offer assistance and follow up regularly to keep an eye on the process.

Transitioning from the military to civilian job market isn’t easy, but with a dose of patience and perseverance, you’re bound to make it through and land a job that will make all that stress and worry very much worth it.

About the author
Amelia Knott is part of the HR team behind AuBiz – an ABN lookup platform. She is passionate about giving HR advice and support which she combines with her love for writing and tutoring.


One thought on “7 Tips to Help Veterans in Transitioning to Civilian Job Market

  1. Pingback: Self-Employment Guide for Veterans and Middle-Aged Dropouts | Corporate Gray Blog

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