Is Veteran Employment a Rigged Game?

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I once had a coaching client who was convinced veteran employment was a rigged game. "They say they want to hire veterans," he told me on an especially hard day. "But it is not like they have a job for you. They only want the guys with IT [information technology]. It's rigged."

He was disgusted with the whole process. I thought he was onto something. Veteran employment is, in fact, a rigged game. My client was just missing the fact that you can rig it in your own favor.

As the transition master coach for's Veteran Employment Project, I've worked with more than 19,000 transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses. I have learned one of the most powerful things you can do to keep your spirits up during the soul-sucking process of the job hunt is to think of it as a game. Specifically, you should think of it as that annoying kids game: Candyland.

Last week on American Corporate Partners' Career Blueprint podcast, host Jennifer Williams asked me about my Candyland theory (listen to the whole interview here.) In case you missed it, here is how you can gamify the job-hunt process and win in record time:

Goal Setting: Get Laser Focused on the Candy Castle

When you first think of separating from the military or retiring, everyone acts as if getting out is a giant game of Candyland. Instead of promising you Ice Cream Floats and the Peppermint Forest and Gumdrop Mountains, people promise signing bonuses! Certifications! Salary hikes! Work from home! And all free!

Skilled players recognize that those civilian possibilities are gaudy distractions. They make you forget that this is a race and landing that sweet, sweet job in record time is the actual goal of the game.

Leap ahead of the pack by starting at the end goal. Identify your goal industries, companies and job titles with our exclusive LinkedIn master class. Not only do I teach you how to translate your military experience, but I teach you how to find the most likely job titles for you. Then you can work backward into a probabilities-focused game.

Scheme: You Must Rig the Game

Rigging the game is not an option. It is a necessity. You would know this if you ever played Candyland with a 5-year-old before bedtime. You would know the game is designed to make the players cry. Especially the parents.

Strategy is everything. As a strategic (if devious) parent, I always went through the deck and eliminated all the cards with only one space on them. The whole deck was double block cards and special locations. Bam.

Rig your own game by playing only the cards that matter. Eliminate every action that does not statistically earn you the job. If you are looking for a job paying more than $60,000, that means you spend your time on real people:

Fixate: Ignore the Lucky Few

While there are strategies to fly ahead in the game, there are also pitfalls to avoid. Right at the beginning of Candyland, a few lucky players take the Rainbow Trail and knock off half the squares in one fell swoop. Ditto for the military. If you have an IT background, or you are a software engineer, an aircraft mechanic or a pilot, the Rainbow Trail delivers you right into the arms of eager recruiters (if that is where you want to be.)

For the rest of us, gnashing our teeth over the Rainbow Trail is a waste of job-seeking energy. Keep your efforts focused on your own strategies and keep your peer goggles to yourself.

Unstick: Avoid the Cherry Pitfalls

In Candyland, you can get stuck either on a Cherry Pitfall or in the Molasses Swamp. If you land on one, you are stuck on that spot until you draw the right card. You can get stuck in your job hunt, too. (If cherries and molasses are involved in your sticky situation, know that we will cover it at

Most people get stuck during the job hunt, because they are unwilling or unable to choose one or two job titles. They make their resume, pitch and LinkedIn profile broad so it appeals to everyone. Thus, it appeals to no one -- and the job hunter gets stuck.

The secret here is to do little experiments. Talk about your plan with a few people and see what kind of feedback you get. When you start getting specific questions or offers to introduce you to someone else, you know you are on the right path.

Focus: Keep Your Head in the Game

Getting discouraged during the job hunt is all part of the game. The key is to see the big picture. Notice the other players. Strategize. You already have everything you need to be a career winner. You just need to learn to play the game.

Find the Right Veteran Job

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