Career guru and Air Force veteran Rick Gillis shares his advice for transitioning military — part of a conversation he also had with his son an Army veteran who decided to gain additional education and attend law school when he returned from combat and transitioned back to civilian life.
A few short years ago my son Tory returned from serving a year in Afghanistan. He served with the 2nd Infantry Division 5th Stryker Brigade on and around the Afghan/Pakistan border. His unit saw combat. At the time my only communication with him was mostly via his wife Jenn who kept me informed of his daily activities and Charlie Gibson on the ABC Nightly News broadcast. He had some OK days and some not so OK days. In the end I got him back while not all members of his unit returned home to their families.After returning to his home base of Fort Lewis WA he was coming up on the completion of his four-year enlistment when we began discussing his future plans. It was then that he asked me a question that still haunts me — not so much as a father but as a job-search expert. He asked “What do I have to offer?” OMG! I could not believe I was hearing this from someone who had just spent four years training and had been promoted based on that training his expertise knowledge leadership judgment skills and more.Realize that the military is unique in that the Coast Guard Marines Navy Army and Air Force will take someone with virtually no skills whatever and spend thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars bringing this individual to an experience level that very few civilian organizations will ever attempt to duplicate. You know that Army saying “Be all you can be?” Well it’s not just the Army. You sign up for any branch of the service and you WILL become all you can be within your ability interest and motivational level. The military of today is not the military of my day when you could potentially enlist just to stay out of trouble.Interestingly although my son was an enlisted member of the Army I am currently working with a US Naval Academy grad/career officer who departs the Navy in 2014. We have actually had a review of these very same issues.So for those of you who may read this and have a same or similar question to Tory’s or my Naval officer client let me offer some basic guidance for your job-search mindset.We can begin with your mastery of soft skills. They may not have been called “soft” while you were on active duty but these are skills that every employer seeks. [See our article What Do Employers Really Want? Top Skills and Values Employers Seek from Job-Seekers.]As an active-duty member of the military you were continuously working with a team taking charge as necessary and motivating the troops. You were constantly called on to take up the challenge to make things happen with whatever tools or people you had available to you.Now add to that your primary skillset such as your knowledge of information technology aviation logistics and the like and you dear veterans are winners.My ground-pounder son is soon to graduate with his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and has begun applying to law school. With his prominent military leadership growth and very good grades I believe he will be accepted.For your review and consideration here is a copy of the resume he developed for his law school application. Read between the lines and note how this document oozes of leadership learned while on active duty.One last note of advice to veterans: Learn to think like an employer. Offer what you think a hiring manager will want to see in a resume or bio. Remember when it comes to employment it’s not at all about you. It’s about what you are going to do for them. And as a veteran you already know all about doing for them.I genuinely wish you great success. You’ve earned it!
Maximize your use of the many no-cost veteran and career resources — including career consulting to resume-writing to job placements. These resources are there to help empower you to success in your transition from military service to civilian worker.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college career and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms. This article is part of Job Action Day 2013.
Rick Gillis is career coach and guru — a pioneer of 21st century job search — an author of several career books and founder of The Really Useful Job Search Company LLC. Rick who has been quoted numerous times from NPR to The Wall Street Journal regularly speaks at colleges and universities job-search networking groups non-profit organizations and professional associations. His claim to fame is his creation of the Short-Form Resume and his “mandatory” Accomplishments Worksheet. Visit his Website or reach him by email using his contact form.