A few months ago this Quintessential Careers Blog was published. These are some insights specifically for veterans.
If you’re a returning veteran and you’re not sure how to navigate the rocky transition from military to civilian employment, don’t worry. You don’t have to face this challenge alone. And despite what you may believe, your skills are highly transferable and highly valued by employers in your target industry.
We know that veterans tend to be focused, committed, careful, and determined employees. We know that they’re often seasoned critical thinkers, smart decision-makers, and experienced leaders. We know that even at a young age many hard-working veterans have already taken on oversized levels of responsibility.
But while we know this, and many employers know it, veterans themselves are often uncertain about the value they bring to the civilian workplace. Job candidates making the difficult transition from the military to the civilian world are often intimidated by the unfamiliar culture they’re stepping into. They don’t always have a clear grasp of the roles and responsibilities they’re expected to take on, and they don’t always know exactly how to frame their skills and pitch their value to potential employers.
In fact, some veterans fear that they have nothing to offer to corporate employers, and they vastly underestimate or undersell their potential contributions. More than once, we’ve heard returning veterans repeat phrases like “I’m not sure what I’m good at”, or answer “I don’t know” when asked what they can provide to potential employers.
Reminders for Returning Veterans
If you’re a veteran and you feel intimidated or put off by the requirements you find in civilian job postings, don’t worry. Stay confident and collected and keep these considerations in mind.
Listed job requirements aren’t always what they seem.
Hiring managers don’t expect candidates to satisfy every requirement listed in most job posts. You don’t need to cross every item off the list before you submit a resume. In fact, most candidates for a given position hold only half or two thirds of the listed requirements. And some of these requirements are quantified in arbitrary ways, meaning they may demand a certain numbers of years experience that don’t match up with the level of the position in question. So, don’t be afraid to apply to jobs that you may not be 100 percent qualified for.
On-the-job training is usually par for the course.
For most entry and mid-level positions, employers expect to train new employees on the job. It’s in their best interests to do so. Intelligent, committed candidates offer the most value over the long term and are the most affordable at the onset, and these candidates aren’t always familiar with the specific ropes of the job just yet.
Your skills are translatable and transferable.
If you’ve spent the last three years working on a highly specific software platform that you don’t expect to see in the civilian world, or you’ve been operating a piece of military-specific equipment, or leading a team through tasks that are unlikely to occur in an office setting, that’s okay. You just need to explain these tasks, skills, accomplishments, and credentials in terms that civilian employers understand. And you don’t have to face this challenge alone. Job search advisors, recruiters, and resume editors are all trained to help you translate your skill sets and communicate your value to potential employers. And your skills—whatever they may be—DO have value. If you know how to learn new things, stay flexible and resilient, stay cool under pressure, and stick with a task until it’s done, there’s no civilian job that you can’t handle.
Don’t underestimate your abilities, and don’t overestimate the demands and expectations of corporate employers for entry- and mid-level jobs in your chosen industry. Just apply your patience and determination and get the help you need in order to communicate your goals and abilities.