by Lea McLeod
Editor’s note: To fully understand and report on the challenges transitioning members of the armed forces face when they search for a job in the civilian world, contributor Lea McLeod of Degrees of Transition interviewed veteran Nick Guidry. Here, and in this article’s companion piece, A Soldier’s Transition Story, Part II: 8 Workplace Transition Challenges, the author tells Guidry’s story.
Nick Guidry served in the Army and the Army National Guard for 10 years.
For the last four years of his service, he headed a training department, developing training plans, developing classes and ensuring attendance, for a 1,200-soldier battalion. He also led operations for developing the organization’s strategic alignment.
But when he decided to leave the Army after a decade in a uniform, he knew his work was cut out for him.
Planning a Transition from Military to Civilian Work, Strategically
As Guidry studied the external job market and explored his interests, he knew he wanted to work in the training and development field. Already holding a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, he returned to school and got his master’s in curriculum and instruction.
Knowing that his network would be key, Guidry began networking within professional associations in the training and development field. He learned as much as possible about how to attain a job in that sector.
He believes that the key issue with transition to civilian life is not only skill matching, but also preparing for the transition.
Guidry notes that many of the transition programs for veterans leaving military service aren’t up to snuff. Civilians who don’t have recent experience with the job-search process often lead the military job-transition programs.
Because of their unfamiliarity with current job-search techniques, they are not preparing military members to leverage newer tools like social media, online networking sites, and other methods essential to the job search.
Guidry knew the search would be hard because of job-market conditions.
Because of this belief, however, that most soldiers are not using the educational benefits available to help them begin planning their exit strategy long before they actually leave, Guidry used a strategic approach to his own job search.
The Job-Search Begins: Research
He first targeted high-end consulting firms that he later realized he didn’t quite have the educational prestige to join. He narrowed his search, went online, and explored career fields in which his degree was valued.
Once he conducted his research, he targeted companies with strong reputations and strong financials. He identified about a dozen organizations that interested him.
Veterans programs were important, as was location in the Houston area, where he lives.
Based on those criteria, Guidry narrowed the list to four core companies with which he felt he was a good match.
He then targeted people on LinkedIn who were already in each organization. He conversed with a “mentor” at his current company for more than a year and began having other networking conversations within his target organizations.
Translating Military Experience
Guidry at first wondered how he could market himself as a learning professional when his only experience was in the Army. Aligning military and civilian experience is a challenge many veterans face. The answer was all in the translation.
When he targeted his current employer, he looked at what the job required.
He presented his past military experience in a way that addressed the current needs of the organization. He felt confident that he had what the employer needed; he just needed to present it in a way that didn’t feel “military.”
A Soldier’s Advice for Transitioning Veterans in the Job Search
Guidry suggests forgetting about the big job boards. “Spraying and praying” — randomly submitting online applications to large numbers of employers — does not work. He observes that, unfortunately, newly emerging soldiers often use that ineffective methodology to find work.
In most ways, military veterans are no different from other job-seekers. They need to develop a clear strategy, good messaging, and a strong value proposition for employers.
Here are his top 5 tips for veterans in the post-military job search:
- Develop a clear strategy, excellent preparation, an appetite for networking, and a realistic view of the job market.
- Cultivate familiarity with the current tools of the job search, including social media and online branding tools, such as LinkedIn.
- Instead of “spray and pray,” research, target employers, and begin building relationships in those target organizations.
- Be sure to understand how the degree or educational background they have is valued in an organization.
- They need to prepare for the interview, really understand what their target employer is looking for, and deliver messages that focus on demonstrated behavior, not just buzzwords.
Once transitioning veternas have a good strategy, and good sense for how they can translate their military skills into a value proposition for employers, they’ll be on solid job search ground.
Done? Nope. Read the next part, A Soldier’s Transition Story, Part II: 8 Transition Challenges Relating to How Military Service and Civilian Work Differ.
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.
Lea McLeod, M.A., is an expert at helping recent grads and young adults Find Jobs Faster. She was recently named a Top 50 Blog for Young Careerists, a Top 100 to Follow on Twitter for Job Seekers, and a Top Resource for Grads and PhDs. She is the author of the soon-to-be-released Resume Coloring Book for students and grads, and is launching The Job Search Lab, to help job-seekers navigate the search with live and online coaching. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, and find her blog collection at Degrees of Transition.