I despise asking for help.
I hate feeling weak.
I refuse to feel vulnerable.
If avoidable, I do not ever want to owe anybody anything.
I prefer to take care of things myself, and I certainly don't need to pay for any service to improve me when I am already well-equipped.
These are all thoughts that I and many other service members and veterans tend to have.
Service members work in an environment that fosters leaders – they simply ensure that the mission is accomplished. They don't ask why, they don't ask to have their hand held, and they certainly don't need step-by-step guidance on how to reach their mental centers of gravity. All activities are linked on strategic and tactical levels, so that when the commander says move out, service members are ready to go.
These feelings are what myself and other service members must overcome when making the exit from military service. When it comes to transitioning, you have to ask for help. This applies to mental health, fitness, and most importantly, to career transition.
When it comes to resumes, more information is not necessarily better. Veterans have countless performance reports they can use to draft a CV, and that would lead to a 20-page document covering the length of their service. To the veteran, nearly every accomplishment was important to furthering their career, and leaving any element out wouldn't adequately reflect their impact. Creating a resume may become overwhelming, stressful, and can end with the veteran in a paralyzed state where they, for the first time, feel a bit defeated.
Your resume should be one to two pages long, not a dissertation. You also need more than one version.
Applying for Appropriate Positions
Vets tend to think that the fate of their career is decided for them. They assume that they can only apply for anything that has a keyword applicable to their career, or positions that have similar missions to what they held in the service. Neither is correct. There are no specific positions for veterans in the civilian world because any position in a company can be filled by one. Success comes down to the subjective and objective tools that a former service member has gained from their time in the military.
I was a Logistics Officer and I now work in HR and own my company. According to my military timeline, I should be leading semi-truck drivers across the states or working in a foreign embassy. It is the subjective skill sets, such as leadership and communication, which matter.
Knowing the Hiring Process
Coming out of the service, how are you to know who is actually screening your resume in the hiring process? In the military, you may submit a package for an award or a special humanitarian circumstance, but performance endorsements count for so much that often you are not involved in the process. How are you to know the difference between a sourcer, recruiter, hiring manager, or a human resources business partner? Each person has a specific role in the company and is integral to you getting hired. Not knowing these steps greatly puts you at a disadvantage. Just as you know if you are briefing a General Officer, you need to know the background of who you are being grilled by for a new role.
Knowing How to Interview
We all know that you were once probably great. Maybe you commanded 600 people. Maybe you served overseas, speak multiple languages, are a sniper and have the ability to max your PT test in austere conditions. While that is all fine and definitely sets you above most of the civilian population, but that does not help the individual interviewing you see why you make a great fit.
Knowing what the interviewer is looking for is the reverse psychology aspect of job hunting that you cannot inherently know, it requires proper research and education. For the first time ever, you may have to sell someone on why you deserve a roll and remember that those doing the hiring probably do not understand your background.
Using Networking and Career Tools
If you have never needed to use a LinkedIn or a Monster or a Careerbuilder, then why would you know how to use them correctly? Why would you know how keywords are used, and which ones correlate to the types of roles you think you want? Vets must understand that putting their information in the proper channels and in the proper format will skyrocket their chances of being selected for a role. While vets may be at the mercy of hiring managers in the interview process, getting themselves noticed and to the dance floor is still part of their duty.
The takeaways are just this—transitioning into a civilian career is not easy. A veteran can move into any career field and likely find themselves successful because of their can-do attitude, but it is the subjectivity of their traits, coupled with the finesse of the networking and hiring process that make it complicated.
Ask professionals for help, set your pride aside, and realize that your rank does not carry over to the civilian world.
I recently prepped General on the interview process, and he realized that I intimidated him over the phone by asking questions he had never had to think about. If a GO can feel intimated, become speechless, and admit to needing guidance from a subject matter expert, so can you.
Ask yourself if you would feel weaker by simply asking for help, or stagnating without a new career because you didn't buy into the services you needed. I would think being unemployed would make someone feel less vulnerable than sending me an email to get started in the process.
Asking for help is not weak, it's tactical.
After graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2006, and obtaining her masters in Industrial Organizational Psychology, Liz McLean spent five years as a Logistics Readiness Officer. She joined the civilian recruiting world in September 2010 helping both the military and civilian populace find their roles in the workforce. Liz has worked in Corporate HR (Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI and Hewlett Packard) and individual staffing agencies to create robust programs and collaborations between veterans and employers. She currently writes for Task & Purpose and travels for speaking engagements to both the employee and veteran community.