Civilian Candidates Transitioning from the Military

Today’s blog is mainly going to be a post to promote awareness. In the past, I have participated in discussions surrounding the struggles of military employees transitioning into the civilian workforce. HR professionals talked about the situations they were coming across and different programs they had in place to help these individuals. Military employees talked about their concerns when it came to transitioning. I knew that it was a hard situation but it wasn’t until this weekend that I realized how bad it could be for someone who didn’t have help or guidance.

A friend of mine stopped by my house on Sunday because she was getting discharged from the Air Force soon and she wanted some help updating her resume in preparation for civilian job hunting. She slapped down her resume onto my kitchen table and all I could say was, “What is this?” The resume was barely half a page long and included a couple of skills written in military jargon. I’ve known her for about four years now and she often talked about her role in the Air Force, so right off the bat I knew that this resume was not even remotely useable.

I asked her where she got the format for her resume and she quickly supplied me with a random printed out package of “information”. After reviewing the details, I soon realized that this paperwork came from the department handling the transitioning soldiers. I was stunned. What they provided was not even slightly helpful in properly preparing these people for the civilian world. It suddenly became clear why so many people struggled.

Some things that these packages “taught” our transitioning soldiers are as follows:

  • Resume: update your resume based off of ERP print outs. These print outs provided very general information that was not sufficient enough to properly showcase their experience. Additionally, the print outs didn’t help soldiers learn how to  the change the military jargon into civilian terms
  • Important things to consider for your job search:
    • Who will this be effecting? Who do you spend your social time with now? How will you keep your social relationships in tact?
    • What are your financial obligations? How much money will you have to make to cover these?
    • What career are you interested in?
    • Where will you network?
    • What type of clothes will you need to purchase for your career?

I get it. Some of those questions are important to think about but is that really all they’re left with? Vague, general questions? More importantly, the package didn’t give examples for any of these questions, nor do they provide any guidance. These candidates have no one to talk to. How is a piece of paper going to be enough to help them prepare for this? Some of these individuals have no idea what career they would be a fit for because they don’t know how their military skills will transition into civilian work. Some don’t even know what networking is or what’s appropriate for the field that they’re interested in. Basically, they’re thrown into a civilian workforce that is foreign to them. It’s hard enough to find a job in our workforce as it is, could you imagine being a job seeker with absolutely no idea how to do it?

Luckily, my friend has me to consult when it comes to updating resumes, networking, clothing, and figuring out career paths. But what about the people who don’t have friends in HR or recruiting? As we hashed out the details, my friend said to me, “I guess this is why there are so many military people going into poverty.” Many of these people sacrificed so much for us. Many of them put their lives and dreams on hold to serve our country. Is this really all we can do for them? It’s just not enough.

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Helping our Veterans Enter the Civilian Workforce

Just in time for Veteran’s Day! #Tchat hosted a great discussion last week in regard to helping veterans enter into the civilian workforce. Once again, the contributors had some great suggestions on how we can help veterans prepare for job hunting, gain transferable skills, and format their resume so it can be easily read by recruiters in civilian companies. I was happy to see the passion that these recruiters and human resources professionals had for helping the veterans get where they need to be when it came to landing a job.

Here are some great take-aways and suggestions from this chat:

  • It would be wise for military branches to take a few months to properly prepare the veterans for the change between military life and civilian life. This includes helping them build necessary skills that will transfer into civilian work.
  • RPOs, organizations, and staffing firms should take the time to partner with military branches and prepare available jobs for transitioning veterans.
  • Veterans should seek help when it comes to gaining appropriate interviewing skills, job hunting skills, and resume writing skills. Companies should be open to helping them with this, even if it’s as simple as helping them reformat their resumes so they will have appropriate keywords that recruiters look for.
  • Veterans should be taught how to build on their networking skills.
  • Veterans should be educated on how to create a personal brand that they can use in face-to-face networking events, interviews, and even social media branding.
  • Companies and veterans need to take the time to collaborate and bridge the gap between military verbiage and civilian business language so they can have equally understandable communication with clear messages.
  • For mentoring and coaching opportunities, companies should pair new veteran employees with others who have made the transition in the past.
  • Companies should make special efforts to seek out veterans, help them become aware of job openings they could be a fit for, and create social opportunities to discuss how the job and candidate would be a fit.

There were so many great ideas in this chat that I simply could not name them all. We all hoped that these suggestions were inspiring and hopefully had started a helpful trend in this respect. You may review more of the suggestions, the recap, and additional tweets on this subject below.

If you are interested in topics like this, be sure to join #TChat on Twitter- Wednesdays at 7pm EST

More links:

Employing our Veterans by Meghan M. Biro

Smart Mission- Hire Vets by Kathleen Kruse

Recap Slide Show

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