7 Steps Toward Finding Civilian Employment

Professionals holding a meeting.

How do you plan on finding employment in the civilian world? Don't know, don't care? With the current realities of the job market, a blasé attitude won't get you very far. Unless you're immensely well-connected, you'll have to do a lot of legwork to find stability in civilian life. Although the process might seem chaotic and unnerving, there are some very simple, easy steps every veteran can take to find success as a civilian. Inspired by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, here are seven steps towards finding civilian employment.

1. Set Your Own Goals

Think back to your military service:

  • Where did you live?
  • What was your military occupational specialty (MOS) group?
  • What was your job code?
  • How much control did you have over any of those things?

Unless you worked specific language into your enlistment contract, the military most likely answered all three questions for you. Once you enter the civilian world, that all changes.

Opposite the rigid structure of the military telling you where to go and what to do, veterans working in the civilian job market need to define these goals for themselves. This can be an extremely stressful experience or a rewarding one, depending on your interests, location, financial stability and work experience. If you're struggling to set job goals for yourself, think about your needs and research the industries and jobs that fill them.

Setting your own goals will help you keep perspective while searching for jobs. It's easy to flounder and despair if you don't find something in a short period of time, but aiming for a target aids with focus and perseverance.

2. Collect Intel

Were you ever ordered to do something without being given adequate information? Did you enjoy that experience? Do yourself a favor and don't relive that memory; gather as much intelligence as you can before you act. In the civilian world, discerning the right and wrong way to do things can be difficult.

Related: Search for Veteran Jobs

Your first step is to pick an industry in which you're interested. Ask a few fundamental questions that will help guide your job hunt and search for the answers.

  • How is the industry expected to grow in the next five years?
  • Which companies are doing the best in the industry, and what's their company culture like?
  • What experience and education do successful professionals in that industry have?
  • How do you give yourself that experience and education?

At worst, you may discover that a certain industry isn't right for you, but at best, you'll be giving yourself a clear view of the big picture. That will inform how to prepare and proceed successfully.

3. Expand Your Network

Take a second to think about the role of a recruiter. They have a lot of jobs to fill and an exponentially higher number of applicants to fill them. How would you tackle that? The way many companies cut through this Gordian knot is to simply take a closer look at people recommended by trusted professionals. How do you get someone to vouch for you? Network.

Networking is most effective when you make genuine connections with like-minded professionals in your industry. Shoving business cards into every open palm won't get you very far, but making an impression and connecting will take you a long way. Don't just cruise forums and boards on the internet, go out to events in the real world and search for opportunities to meet people face to face.

Note that you should never outright ask to be hired while networking. Professionals want to help qualified, earnest people grow, not pass out jobs to the people who push for them.

4. Customize Your Resume

All job openings, even ones with similar titles and work requirements, are different. Always customize your resume to the specific job you're applying for so it has a better chance of getting you noticed and landing you an interview.

Pay attention to the job listing. What do they ask for? How does your experience match up? Again, even if you apply for the same type of position over and over, each company looks for someone unique to their needs.

What do you know about the company's culture? You should take into consideration any noteworthy quirks or cultural values.

5. Strengthen Your Interview Techniques

Being interviewed for a job is like taking a test while acting in a play at the same time. You have to balance your professional image with having good responses. Fortunately, it's not quite as intense as either of those things.

If you brush up on the culture of the industry you want to work in, you'll have a solid understanding of how to behave during an interview. If you study common interview questions and prepare some natural responses, you'll answer questions naturally and easily.

6. Take the Initiative

Always take the initiative on a job hunt. Send out your resume, follow up on whether it was received, send a thank-you note after interviewing for a position and never let your potential new employer take all of the responsibility in communicating.

The key here is not to be pushy. Wait 1-2 weeks between communications to send a follow-up note. It's normal to check in with people in the civilian world, but if you don't give them enough time, you'll come off as overly aggressive or pushy. The one- to two-week rule is generally a safe bet, even if you end up sending a second check-in because your first didn't get a response.

7. Reach Out for Assistance

If you lack information or experience and need a point in the right direction, asking for help is sometimes the only way to get it taken care of. Similar to taking the initiative, asking for help when you need it is a sign of professionalism. Employers want things done well, and reaching out to friendly experts is an excellent way to ensure that happens. Whether you need a friend to look at your resume or want to grab an industry professional for an informative interview, arming yourself with the knowledge of others is always a good thing. In some fields, learning from the longtimers is the only way to progress.

Find the Right Veteran Job

Whether you want to polish your resume, find veteran job fairs in your area or connect with employers looking to hire veterans, Military.com can help. Sign up for a free Military.com membership to have job postings, guides and advice, and more delivered directly to your inbox.

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