As military spouses, the job hunt is just another box to check on our PCS checklist. We are constantly updating our resumes, networking with potential job leads and shaking hands at career fairs.
But what about our service members? The military teaches today’s veterans to fight terrorism on foreign soil but writing a stellar cover letter isn’t a component of boot camp.
According to 2 recent studies focused on veterans and unemployment, eight in 10 veterans did not have a job when they left the military and nearly half of veterans stayed in their first post-separation position for 12 months or less (and two-thirds for 2 years or less). These startling statistics shine a spotlight on veteran unemployment and the challenges surrounding this issue. Add the fact that our military is currently facing significant troop reductions, we can all agree that solving the unemployment problem for veterans starts when they are still in uniform.
5 Tips for Job Hunting and Networking When You’re Still in Uniform
- Create a LinkedIn Profile. If you are in the military, you need a LinkedIn profile, even if you think you will serve for 20 years. This professional social media platform allows you to connect with former colleagues and potential employers. If you want a job, you need a LinkedIn account.
- Befriend Civilians. The longer you are in the military, the more insular the community becomes. Within 5 years, you know loads of Marines, soldiers and sailors, but you don’t know any police officers, facility managers or educators. Solve this problem by joining a professional organization, like Toastmasters International. Toastmasters is an easy way to practice your public speaking skills and connect with professionals in your community. Volunteer to coach your kid’s soccer team or help with a local Boy Scouts troop. These extra-curricular activities will lead to potential jobs outside of the military.
- Send Christmas Cards. When you say “see you later” to every captain or sergeant who crossed your path, don’t forget about each other. Dedicate time to keep in touch with service members that you served with at all ranks. Know who you can count on for references when the time comes to write your civilian resume. Build your network within your military community now.
- Maintain Your Security Clearances and Certifications. In the military, there are certain boxes that you check for a particular job. It was a requirement for that job, but it won’t always be a requirement. If you speak a second language, take the test to be classified as bilingual. Raise your hand for collateral duties instead of being directed to take these roles within your command. Make sure your certifications and security clearances are up to date and current. Position yourself to be competitive both in and out of the military.
- Make a Plan B. The fact is that the Department of Defense is downsizing and every soldier, Marine, airman and sailor needs to have a Plan B. You need to plan to take your military job and convert it to a civilian job in the future. Obviously the majority of military jobs do not have a civilian equivalent, so invent one. The military offered opportunities for leadership, so management is a natural fit for you. The military taught you how to motivate others, so sales may be calling your name. Research specialized programs like Troops to Teachers and Veterans to Farmers while you’re still active duty so that you know your options when you separate from the service.
Spend time twice a year brainstorming ways you can take the knowledge and experience you gained in the military and apply it toward your second career: Your civilian career. The one where you won’t have daily PT, mandatory fun and stand-downs.