Top 9 Obstacles to Employment Veterans Face

U.S. Air Force veteran Elijah Douglas speaks with an Amazon recruiter during a Hiring our Heroes Career Expo at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.
U.S. Air Force veteran Elijah Douglas speaks with an Amazon recruiter during a Hiring our Heroes Career Expo at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Jan. 18, 2024. (Airman 1st Class Elias Carrero/U.S. Air Force photo)

Transitioning from the military into civilian life isn't always easy. Despite the fact that you come from the same country and speak the same language, the culture of the civilian working world is radically different from the U.S. military. Both have different hierarchies, practices and industry-specific language.

Making a successful transition means learning a new set of skills to adapt to civilian workforce culture. Business Insider provided a list of the top nine obstacles transitioning veterans usually face, and we've touched one each of them for you below.

Related: To create a personalized transition plan for yourself, and for transition guides and checklists, visit the Transition Center.

1. You Don't See the Transition from the Military as Starting over Professionally

When you first joined the military, how much did you know about it? Maybe a few basic concepts from books or what you heard from friends and family, but not much else. It took months of training and acclimatizing to integrate fully and years to move up the ranks. Every step of the way brought new lessons and new ways of doing things.

The working world is no different. No matter what you did in the military, no matter how competent you are with the core skills necessary to do the job you want, it takes training and experience to climb the ranks. Although some may move quickly, the learning curve is unavoidable.

When they join the civilian workforce, it's important that veterans realize they are, more often than not, taking a step down. Their responsibilities won't be as intense or, likely, important as they were in the military. Accepting that is imperative to maintaining a focused, realistic perspective.

2. You Overestimate How Unique Your Skills and Experiences Are

Years of intense experiences have shaped you in many positive ways. You should be a shoo-in for any civilian job, right? If there were far fewer people competing for the same positions, then maybe. reported that 470,000 resumes were uploaded every week in 2012. If you compare that number to the number of job openings available, you have roughly 187 candidates, qualified or not, per job.

No matter how qualified you are, you're likely competing with many others who are just as capable as you or are otherwise flooding the recruiter or hiring manager. Don't ever rely on your inherent worth; finding jobs will always require work.

Related: To apply for jobs that match your skills, visit the Military Skills Translator.

3. Your Resume Is Too Long or Too Short

How do you condense the depth and breadth of your work history and military experience into a single sheet of paper? According to Business Insider, you don't. The trick is to cherry-pick jobs and tasks from your work history, military experience included, that are most relevant to the job you're applying for.

That means you might need to create a slew of resumes for different applications, but doing so will prove fruitful. An employer will respond more favorably to a resume that clearly identifies what in your history suits you well to the open position rather than a laundry list of miscellaneous accomplishments.

4. You Did Not Proofread Your Resume

If your version of proofreading is scanning for all the red squiggly lines and unthinkingly making the suggested changes, you're doing it wrong. Proofreading tools that accompany word processors are powerful but limited. They won't always catch obvious spelling mistakes, sometimes auto-correct to the wrong word, and their sense of grammar isn't as impeccable as yours should be. Take the time to analyze every single sentence and scrutinize each punctuation mark. Have other people read it, read it five more times yourself, then have even more people read it; do whatever it takes, even using a professional resume writing service, to make sure your grammar, spelling and formatting are impeccable.

Related: Does your resume pass the 6-second test? Get a FREE assessment.

5. You Aren't Using LinkedIn, or Your Profile Isn't Complete

The civilian working world takes LinkedIn seriously, and so should you. You don't have to be a social media expert, but creating a complete profile and remaining open to networking opportunities will serve any job seeker well. Some may even argue it's a necessity. A LinkedIn profile shows that you're capable of navigating modern technology and adapting to shifting business standards.

Even if you don't have your sights set on working in upper management, having an easily accessible professional online profile will help you, regardless of your chosen industry.

6. You Aren't Trying to Leverage Social Media

Years ago, scoffing at MySpace or Facebook wasn't an outmoded thing to do. Social media started off as an interesting way to reach out to others online, but only recently has it exploded into a nearly ubiquitous cultural phenomenon and enraptured the working world. Just as with LinkedIn, you don't have to be an expert, but competency will make you a stronger candidate.

Websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to remain in contact with individuals who may offer you a new job; even if you don't see each other face to face on a regular basis, professionals tend to remember who they like and trust when it's time to fill a position.

Furthermore, Twitter isn't just for bragging about food or lamenting about "first-world problems"; hiring managers and companies alike often tweet about job openings and provide information about their company, industry and other useful information.

7. You Did Not Prepare Adequately for the Interview

No matter how many jokes you've heard about professionals successfully faking their way through work, the reality is that valuable employees train, prepare and make sure they're ready to accomplish a given task. Job interviews aren't to be taken lightly, and research and practice can only help you.

The more you know about a company and the industries it's a part of, the more knowledgeable and prepared you'll appear during an interview. Potential employers respond well to candidates who show genuine interest, and that's proven by knowing who they are, what they do, who their competition is, what industry trends they're grappling with ... the list goes on and on.

8. You Wrote a Lackluster Thank-You Note

Thank-you notes are simple, easy and help you stand out. After a job interview, get busy procuring and crafting your note, and make sure it gets to the right people as soon as possible. Having said that, it's not enough to write: "Dear potential employer, thank you for the interview. I'm awesome. Take care, veteran of the U.S. Military."

The thank-you needs to be accompanied by genuine introspection. Recall what you discussed during the interview, and mention one or two points in the thank-you note. The note itself is a mark of appreciation, but what you write is an indicator of what you learned and how much you pay attention.

9. You Don't Know What You Want to Do

If you really don't know what you want to do professionally, your job-searching forays are a poor time and place to figure it out. Candidates who lack focus aren't appealing to employers. You might not know what you want to do, but no one else will figure it out for you, especially hiring managers and recruiters.

Rather than use job listings and the application process to find your path, try securing informational interviews, attending gatherings for different careers and researching online.

Related: For the latest veteran jobs postings around the country, visit the Job Search section.

The Next Step: Find the Right Veteran Job

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

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