'Tis the season of believing in things you cannot necessarily see -- like human kindness, goodwill toward veteran-kind, and the job offer that is stuck somewhere in HR. Which should be here by Friday. Or next week. Or by New Year's, for sure.
As Military.com's transition master coach, I see how often job seekers are thwarted in the job market, because they do not believe in things unseen in the transition process. They want to believe that what is logical, expected and visible in the military should be logical, expected and visible in the civilian world.
This makes perfect sense to me but is nonetheless not true. These misbeliefs might be the reason your job hunt is taking a lot longer than you thought it would. If you want to be a really successful military job hunter in the coming months, here are the seven beliefs of highly successful military job hunters:
1. Believe in Your Invisibility.
It is so easy for military and veterans to feel completely exposed during the job hunt. After all those years of learning to keep your head down and let your job results speak for themselves, you are now expected to proclaim your career accomplishments from the rooftops. Or at least on your resume. It can leave you feeling as exposed as a naked skier on a bright, shining day.
But feeling exposed is a very different thing than being exposed. The fact is, overexposure is not the problem you should be worried about during your job hunt.
Military recruiters tell me that one of their biggest problems with hiring vets is that they cannot figure out what you actually did in the military by reading your resume. This is usually because you have hidden your accomplishments behind a hedge of four-syllable words.
Resolve to make this the year of stripping things down until your value is clear on the civilian market. Find out more about writing a better resume in our Checklist Resume Master Class.
2. Believe in the Data.
I know you want to have a job waiting for you. I know everyone is telling you that with your record you have nothing to worry about.
As your friendly neighborhood military sociologist, I've got to tell you that according to the Pew Research Center, only one in four post-9/11 veterans had a job waiting for them after military service. One in four. I suspect this number is even lower for senior leaders who are retiring from the military. I'd put it as low as one in 10. Uh oh.
Yet, if you let yourself believe in the data, then you will know it is normal for most people -- even hard workers like you -- to have a period of unemployment, post-military. Plan accordingly and you maintain your positivity and power.
3. Believe Hiring Moves at a Glacial Pace.
Whenever a client of mine starts getting serious looks from employers, they always complain about how long it takes to get an actual offer. The civilian norm is aggravating. When a civilian hiring manager tells you that they think there will be an offer, or that they have to consult one more person, it is natural to think they mean a week or two at the most.
Nope. Hiring often occurs at a glacial pace, especially for more senior jobs. Half-dead sloths on polar ice floes move faster than the HR department during your transition.
How do you handle this truth without losing your mind? Expect a slowdown and continue to pursue other offers. When one employer is interested in you enough to make hiring noises, other employers seem to perk up, too.
4. Believe in Scheduled Networking
I know you have heard people say that they worked on getting a full-time job like it was their full-time job. Impressive, no?
Except when you question them closely, you find their actual networking efforts are pretty anemic -- a couple of calls a month. They are online all day, sure, but they are scrolling through the same old job listings, checking the box scores and escaping their anxieties by chasing down rabbit holes. Which is not the same as networking.
Networking has been shown to be the top strategy in uncovering new opportunities, and the only strategy to gain access to roles that are never published. In fact, 53% of candidates referred by a current employee got the job offer, and that number spiked to 91% when the person referring was at a director level or above.
Battle this by setting your networking hours on your calendar now. If you are motivated by checking things off a list, make an appointment with yourself on the calendar. If you are motivated by not disappointing others, make these appointments as a call you set up in advance with someone else.
If you are a total rebel who cannot be controlled, tell yourself that this is all your own idea and you are breaking with the pack. If you are an introvert who dreads networking, reach out to me on LinkedIn. I've got ideas for you.
5. Believe in Upskilling
No matter how junior or senior you are, sign up for some kind of upskilling during your transition -- both before and after your separation or retirement date. You might have been told you would not need to upskill, which may be true. But upskilling sends other signals to employers that are probably even more valuable than the training itself.
Upskilling signals innate youth and adaptability. It says that you are young enough to retool, but you also understand you are now leaving your military status and jumping on a business learning curve. New training also gives you something to say when people ask what you are doing with your time, which will make you feel better.
You can use Onward to Opportunity to take your project management certification now or a software certification. There are short courses from local universities in business analytics and government pricing.
During your research on jobs, collect a list of specific software programs listed in the ads. If you start seeing the same requirement repeatedly, that will be the signal you should take it. You might be able to teach yourself how to use the software with a YouTube tutorial or an online course.
You can find classes to get certified in some of the most in-demand software programs, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Systems Applications and Products (SAP), Hootsuite and Salesforce.
6. Believe in Your Triggers.
"I hate LinkedIn," one of my O-6 clients told me last year. "Every time I scroll through LinkedIn, everyone is celebrating that they got a job or an anniversary or promotion."
When I explored the subject more with him, I found he was doing everything he should until he started scrolling his LinkedIn feed. It was a trigger that could kill his job-hunt efforts for the rest of the week. It happens. No one is immune.
Other military job hunters get triggered when they talk to a certain friend, when a spouse worries about the future, when they get crickets on a job application they thought was perfect. You know you have been triggered when you stop networking or avoid other people.
Once you identify your triggers, manage around them. There is no great honor in white-knuckling it.
7. Believe in the Process.
"I believe in the process. Really I do. But this ..."
My client's voice fell away. He had done all the work of job hunting for a whole year prior to his retirement ceremony. After the visitors went home and the uniform went to the dry cleaner, he looked up and expected to have a job already. "It feels like I'm waiting for a bus that will never come," he told me.
Exactly. The research says that the worst fear of human beings is not of sharks or serial killers or monsters from Planet X. The worst fear we have is of being forgotten.
Your brain's survival mechanism will kick in following transition, because all those things that signaled you were part of the group will fall away. Know that phenomenon is natural and temporary and return to the work.
According to LinkedIn data, military members have a better track record for getting jobs, keeping jobs and getting promotions than their matched civilian counterparts. For you, the job hunt is a blip in your career. Align your thoughts with your beliefs, and the right actions will lead to your job offer.
Jacey Eckhart is Military.com's transition master coach. She is a certified professional career coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Employment Project and on her website SeniorMilitaryTransition.com. Reach her at Jacey.Eckhart@Monster.com.
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Transitioning military, veterans and spouses may be qualified for the job, but they are missing the secrets of civilian hiring. Find out everything you need to know with our FREE master class series including our next class You can view previous classes in our video library. Questions for Jacey? Visit our Facebook page.