B.C. Forbes (founder of Forbes magazine) is quoted as saying: "History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats." As a military veteran, you know that obstacles along the path to triumph are inevitable. Having a strategy and keeping your vision focused on a goal helped you complete your military service, and the same sort of tenacious resilience can help you achieve success in a civilian job search. Here are 4 tips for overcoming obstacles when hunting for a job in the public or private sector.
1. Connect with others and devise a strong transition strategy
Take advantage of all transition services available to you through the Veterans Administration both online and in person. You will need a multi-dimensional strategy. Support networks will most likely overlap, but be sure you stay connected to friends and family. A variety of community events, civic and/or religious gatherings, and group volunteering efforts offer ways to stay connected and to overcome the isolation that can sometimes occur during a time of unemployment. Other ways to formalize a strategy include:
- setting a plan and schedule and keeping to it.
- securing set times for job hunting, time for friends, and time for exercise – all of these factors are important for maintaining balance.
- keeping good records of your progress and your frustrations.
- considering using the services of a professional career coach to help clarify goals and set up a path for obtaining them.
2. Strengthen your professional network In addition to personal support, you will also need to actively develop a professional network. You will want to expand your professional network as your job search unfolds, so be sure you keep good records and connect with as many people as possible through efforts that might include:
- joining a professional organization and attending events in person and online.
- creating a LinkedIn profile and becoming active in a professional group.
- utilizing the GI bill and enrolling in a professional online certificate program.
- re-connecting with a college alumni association (if applicable).
- using social media to explore job opportunities, share your expertise, and make career connections.
- contacting your professional organization for a career mentoring program.
- keeping a notebook to record your job contacts as you make them, and to keep track of where you send résumés so that you can follow up.
3. Explore fast-growing careers
In addition to securing a strong personal and professional network, exploring fast-growing jobs is another way to increase your employment opportunities. Enrolling in an online program to polish skills can connect you with industry leaders and show a prospective employer that you are committed to doing what it takes to move ahead of the competition.
According to the Bureau of Labor Affairs, the following jobs are among those that will remain in high demand and experience higher than average growth throughout the coming years:
- also a variety of allied health fields made the list
- Information clerks and administrative support workers
- Computer Support Specialists
- Forensic Accountants
- Homeland Security fields like computer forensics, top level security positions, and enforcement officers
To find the outlook for a variety of careers using the BLS A-Z index, see: www.bls.gov/ooh/a-z-index.htm. For the list of jobs with fastest growth in the service sector, see: www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_104.htm. 4. Polish off that Résumé
A professional résumé writer who has worked with veterans in the past can help create the most powerful résumé possible. Translating military training, certificates, commendations, and experience into language a civilian hiring executive will understand takes a special skill set. While formal military transition services and community resources often provide résumé help to veterans, you can also consult the index of jobs at the BLS. This A-Z resource (listed above) can help you to identify keywords associated with the jobs most closely aligned with your professional experience. You can then use the keywords in your field to help create a flawless cover letter and résumé to make a lasting impression. A terrific résumé can help you steer past the competition no matter what obstacles may lay ahead. A few more often overlooked résumé tips include:
- Be sure your name and all contact information appears on the résumé and the cover letter.
- A widely used font (like Times Roman) is usually preferred and will be most compatible with all email systems.
- Most employers prefer seeing a chronological order to your experience.
- You may organize your résumé into skill areas detailing the years and knowledge you have in those areas if a large gap in employment history makes chronological ordering awkward.
- Be as specific as possible; for instance, if you were a project leader and saved your team money, quantify the number of people you directed and how much money you saved.
- Use clear straightforward language and avoid confusing jargon.
Consider your job search as a personal growth opportunity
Two keys to overcoming obstacles in a job search are having the right attitude and choosing the best tools for finding the job. When transitioning from military service to the civilian job force, it is important to put a strategy in place that provides a balance of personal connections, professional development, and individual growth. Professional organizations, Internet networking sites, professional career coaches, and online courses can all play an important role in your transition process.
While any job search has its times of discouragement and rejection, the process can be one of personal growth if you utilize all the tools available to make connections, expand your network, and actualize your goals. While no one can predict the future, actively going out to meet it is far better than waiting around for it to happen around you. Setting aside time everyday to engage in job-related success will set you apart from the competition and make the journey more rewarding. In the end it is the culmination of these small daily acts that will keep you in the driver’s seat of your own destiny and will give you the momentum to move far past any obstacles currently in your way.