Veterans Day is quickly approaching, and it is a time when all Americans should pause and take a moment to appreciate those who have served to protect and defend us. Veterans have always faced some obstacles when job searching, particularly when first re-entering civilian life. This is especially true during this COVID-19 pandemic we find ourselves currently in.
I tend to take the optimistic outlook in this situation. While there are some definite challenges facing veterans in the labor market, there are also many areas where, if communicated correctly, a veteran can give him/herself a competitive advantage. Let’s take a moment and spotlight some of the areas that veterans can focus on in their search and candidacy, to make them the preferred choice.
- Select Veteran Status: You may be asked, during your application, regarding your veteran status. Be sure to complete the document affirming that you have protected status. If your prospective employer is a government contractor, they will want this information to be used in its aggregate form.
- Stress Your Ethics and Integrity: This is an area where most veterans rate “off the charts”. Companies write in their Mission and/or Value Statement frequently about how important “doing the right thing” is to them. Veterans represent a huge talent pool that have been specifically trained to have a high degree of ethics and a strong moral compass.
- Refrain from Military Speak: The military seems, at times, like it has its own language. This is especially true when it comes to abbreviations and acronyms. Please review your Cover Letter and Resume to make sure you are not including terms that will be hard to understand by the trainer. A Hiring Manager will most likely be confused rather than impressed by your use of military terms. So, review some Job Descriptions for key terms and convert the skills you obtained in the military to those civilian descriptions.
- Use Your Network: Veterans are in an exclusive club together that those who have not served have difficulty entering. Let those you know that you are in market for employment. Look to join organizations that cater to veterans to give you extended penetration into the area job leads. Military people tend to be loyal to each other and develop strong bonds, all of which is good for your career networking. You may also find that you have made some new friends along the way!
- Stress Your Achievements: Veterans will often write out their military responsibilities rather than focus on what they accomplished from those duties. This is probably because in the military, you are taught about the greater good and team accomplishments. You must, however, overcome your reluctance and “sell” yourself to the Hiring Manager.
- Take Advantage of Programs: Veterans have some great resources available to them to use, but often seem reluctant to take advantage of it. The Department of Labor or Veterans Affairs have staff and programs available to assist those who qualify in improving their interview approach, written documents, or just to build their confidence.
- Assess Your Training Needs: Evaluate your skill set to determine where you may have a skill gap that needs to be addressed. In many situations, this gap can be addressed by attending some webinars, or by some self-taught online course. Learning online is a great and inexpensive way to develop Microsoft Office skills, if this is something that you have assessed as deficient.
- Catch Up On Your Knowledge: If you are just rejoining the workforce from military duty, then you may have less knowledge of area companies and industries than someone who remained in the area and field. You will need to make sure you have done your research and are comfortable conversing about the company or other related topics.
- Get Comfortable: In the military, you were likely taught to defer praise, to speak measuredly, and ask limited questions. While all of this will lead you to be polite and respectful, it may not help you in convincing the Hiring Manager you are the person right for the job. Even in an interview, civilian conversations tend to be a bit more relaxed and casual, so you probably can reduce your stiffness a notch.
It is a shame that so many Hiring Managers or Recruiters can’t think “outside the box” and realize the rich talent within most veterans. A review of his or her transferrable skills or intangibles should quickly reveal a most intriguing and qualified candidate. The good news for veterans is that there are employers who recognize what a good thing they have with veterans. Furthermore, veteran candidates with just a little guidance can relatively easily make a very compelling case as to why they should be hired.
Finally, thank you for all who have served. Your dedication and bravery are greatly appreciated.
As always, best of luck in your job search.
The following has been prepared for the general information of WNYJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.
WNY Human Resources Professional
Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at: