Working World

February 2017

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 9 of 15

10 February, 2017 l Working World l J ob searching is frustrating for every- one, but there are specific challenges that vex military veterans. Some job seekers let these frustrations discourage them, but the astute veteran job seeker will employ specific tactics to overcome each. By doing so, the job seeker will be better positioned to find a role that fits and lasts. OPPORTUNITY AWARENESS Human resources experts who study vet- eran unemployment often ascribe behav- iors and outcomes to veteran status that are more closely correlated with relative youthfulness than military experience. Recently transitioned veterans are like ci- vilian college and high school graduates in that they don't know what kind of job they seek. When asked what they want to do with their career, most begin with a reply of "I don't know; what is out there to do?" In other words, the priority for finding a job is understanding oneself and the types of roles that are in demand in our econo- my. By engaging in an inquiry process of research, reflection and action, the indi- vidual can bracket in on opportunities that make sense. Research in this case means both reading and direct conversational networking with people. As with all problem-solving, the job seeker needs to work vigorously and iter- atively. Staring at a screen and blindly ap- plying to job postings is unlikely to produce success, while engaging with people and thinking rationally will eventually produce direction and positive results. ARTICULATING EXPERIENCE Veterans regularly report that they have trouble "translating" their experience for the benefit of civilian employers. Terms like sergeant, infantry, armor or boatswain are hard to articulate to civilians who may have only a Holly- wood-inspired level of military knowl- edge. For a civilian job search, a veteran needs a succinct and effective el- evator pitch. This short statement summarizes the who, what and why of a veteran's experience in the context of his or her career goals. So instead of "I was a 14S, air defense crew member," you learn to introduce yourself as someone who in the Army "worked with mathematics and computer technology to shoot down enemy planes and drones, sometimes under great pressure." Learning to tell your story takes prac- tice, but you will improve over time. NOT KNOWING ONE'S WORTH There is both an economic and psycholog- ical aspect to "knowing one's worth." The psychological facet can be difficult to fath- om especially when one sees oneself as a leader. It is especially hard for a senior NCO or officer to grasp that many organizations don't necessarily hire people to lead but rather to make, sell and count. In the military, pay is a function of time in grade. The pay scales are public and there is no secret to how compensation is allocated. In the private civilian world, there is tremendous mystery around pay. Like opportunity awareness, the best way to get informed is to network by using informational interviews and inquire. It is impolite to ask people directly what they themselves make, but perfectly all right to discuss ranges for different roles and re- sponsibility levels. LACK OF BUSINESS CONTACTS Most recognize the adage that "it is not what you know but whom you know." Many repeat the phrase as a rationalization for not networking. But the fact is that most job seekers have far more contacts that they realize. Veterans feel that because of frequent moves and deployments, they have not been able to develop business networks. This has a ring of truth to it, but what veterans can fail to appreciate is that, because of their service, most people are eager to help them with their search. The catch is that the veteran must be willing to work actively at networking and help the contacts help them. VETERANS AS VICTIMS The final frustration that veterans feel in their job search is being treated as victims. With so few Americans directly familiar with military service, there are many mis- conceptions about its nature and impact. Widespread ignorance about post-trau- matic stress (PTS), for example, causes some civilians to fear veterans, while misperceptions of national veterans' un- employment levels inadvertently creates a climate of condescension and pity. Veterans can best resist the "veter- ans as victims" mindset by dedicating themselves to positive thought. Showing compassion rather than contempt for the ignorance of civilians and employing large doses of humor will go a long way. Veterans have a lot to offer any organization. By overcoming these common frustrations, each former service member will be on the way to building the civilian career that he or she wants and deserves. FEATURED ARTICLE Overcome Veteran Job Search Frustrations

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Working World - February 2017