Upon leaving the military, many veterans worry that the skills and experience they’ve gained won’t be relevant in the civilian workforce. Fortunately, this is rarely the case. While some of the specific technical expertise you’ve obtained might not come into play, there are a variety of broader skills that you can leverage to find a job. Finding the right employer can make this even easier.
Military-friendly companies know the value of the work you’ve done and the experience you’ve gained, and can help you find a position that will allow you to bring your specific skillset to bear. Even for military jobs without a direct civilian equivalent, the right employer can find a perfect fit. The key is knowing where to look.
1. Look for civilian government jobs. As a member of the U.S. military, you were employed by the government. As a civilian, you may want to pursue similar opportunities. Government organizations like the Department of Defense and the National Security Agency highly value veteran employees, and your military service will likely give you an edge over similar candidates. Most of these jobs require a security clearance, so if you already have it, you’ll have a huge leg up.
2. Look into becoming a Department of Defense contractor. Contractors with the Department of Defense highly value military members for a number of reasons. If you have security clearance, avoiding that long vetting process will certainly be a big incentive to hire you. Whereas a normal candidate would have to wait several months to obtain clearance, you could potentially start right away.
Even if you don’t have security clearance, some of the more specialized aspects of your training could be more relevant with a DoD contractor than anywhere else. For example, an engineer who has experience with military aircraft systems would be a prime candidate for a similar position at Lockheed Martin.
3. Get help from veterans’ organizations. This probably comes as no surprise, but organizations that cater specifically to veterans are also very likely to hire veterans. Companies like USAA often preferentially hire veteran candidates, and are very willing to accommodate those with a spouse still in the military by allowing transfers or remote work opportunities.
4. Check out specialized job boards. There are a number of websites that list companies known to be military friendly. Many also allow specific job searches among these companies, listing new opportunities as they become available. VetCentral, Military Friendly and G.I. Jobs are just a few options for those looking to broaden their search.
5. Look into specific individual companies. Although finding a job you’re qualified for with a known military-friendly employer is often the easier way to go, you may also be able to find a job at companies with relevant openings. There are numerous companies out there that recognize the benefits of hiring employees with military training. If there’s a particular employer you’re looking at, try taking a glance around its website for a page that mentions hiring veterans.
6. Be sure to highlight your skills. Once you’ve found a position you want to apply for, you’ll need to present yourself as a promising candidate. Your experience in the military is a great asset, but you need to know how to present it. Soft skills like leadership and communication are one of the most important parts of differentiating between qualified candidates, and your military experience may serve as proof of your abilities in these areas. You can also highlight your training as a guarantee of other qualities employers look for, such as discipline, work ethic and punctuality.
While you do have a lot of valuable experience to draw from, there are also a few potential pitfalls to avoid, especially when going through the interview process. War stories may not go over well, depending on the interviewer. If necessary, talk about your experience in broad strokes, rather than going into detail.
In addition, be sure to avoid military jargon in your interview. Using terms the interviewer doesn’t understand can place a barrier between you that makes it difficult to communicate. Even just spelling out abbreviations like FOB and CO can make a significant difference in how the interviewer perceives you. That could make you more likely to get the job.