It might seem counterintuitive, but veterans, on aggregate, make more money in the civilian workforce than non-veterans do at every stage of their career. That does not mean, however, that there are not job search and labour market challenges veterans face that make finding jobs and careers more difficult. Spending a substantial amount of time outside of the civilian job market means veterans have some catching up to do once their enlistment has come to an end.
Below are three of the most common and often most daunting challenges.
1. An Unwillingness to Conceptualise the Change as Starting Over
How much did you know about the military when you first joined? Maybe a few basic principles from books or from what friends and relatives told you, but not much else. Fully integrating took months of training and acclimatisation, and moving up the ranks took years. Every step of the process taught something new and helped you perfect your craft to where you could consider yourself an expert.
It is critical for veterans to understand that when they join the civilian workforce, they are, very often, taking a step back. Their obligations will be less demanding, and they will likely find themselves with less authority and responsibility. Accepting this is critical to keeping a clear, realistic perspective.
2. Social Media and Networks
Scoffing at Myspace or Facebook was the thing to do back when the platforms first hit the scene, as it was not outrageous to assume they were passing fads. What began as a fun way to connect with others online has, over the past several years, become a ubiquitous cultural phenomenon that has thoroughly captured the workplace.
If you were born in the 1980s or after, regardless of whether you are a veteran, you are likely, at the very least, an advanced social media user. What you may not have, however, is a solid Linkedin profile with a large network. Many vets struggle with the fact that so much of finding work nowadays comes down to networking, and it takes time to build and cultivate.
3. Getting the Resume Right
How can you fit the breadth and depth of your professional and military experience onto a single piece of paper? The short answer is you don’t. The goal is to cherry-pick your military occupations and duties that are most relevant to the job you are going for. If you have previous civilian workforce experience to draw upon, include that too.
That means you may need to generate a number of resumes/CVs for various applications. A resume that clearly outlines what in your background is relevant to the open position will be more appealing to an employer than a laundry list of unrelated accomplishments. A lack of resume experience is easy to spot when someone uses the same resume and cover letter to apply for different positions, especially if they are in different industries.
It is hard to make universal statements about life post-military and the trials and tribulations of the labour market because different people have different experiences. There are some recurring issues that veterans encounter, however, and knowing what to expect prior to wading into the job search can mean the differences between perseverance and gainful employment and demoralisation.