Originally published to one of my other sites, VetCareerBlog, on 7 December 2016. I wanted host this post on my personal blog also because I felt it had valuable information.
Yes, in the months of September, October, and some of November, I applied for over 100 jobs. Starting December off with a few apps as well, likely 3-5 every week as my normal rate. To date I would say I’m at about 120 applications for a new job after active duty with the National Guard and still, it hasn’t got any easier. Here is what I’ve learned after this experience.
Who You Were Doesn’t Matter
Yes, your military experience is a plus, but in most cases it’s just experience like everyone else. To the recruiter, you are just another resume, so dont expect special treatment because you are a vet (other than normal disability).
I have over 5 years of Battalion operations and human resources experience as an NCO. You’d think this kind of experience would land a decent paying HR Generalist or even Manager role for PSNCOs but the shocking truth is, probably 60-70% of the positions I’ve applied for are an HR role and I haven’t even got 1 call.
I’ve applied to HR Manager all the way down to the secretary at $11/hr and nothing. As an E6, I’m WAY over qualified for a secretary, but that just shows you how bad it is. Simply put, without a certification in HR, you won’t even get looked at.
Do your reseach about all the certifications out there in the field you are going into. If you were supply, find property management and Logistics certifications. I’ll be writing a detailed post about certifications but if you have HR experience as a 42A or equivalent, get your PHR (SPHR if you are E7+) before you get out. Your experience alone doesn’t always get you noticed. Recruiters often times will only look at the resumes with the preferred certification so you want to be on the top of the stack.
Start the Job Hunt Earlier
I flat out underestimated the amount of time it would take to secure a job. My first job outside of active duty will start on 12 December 2016. That means I was unemployed for 2 complete months! In addition to being unemployed for 2 months, the offer cut my salary as an E6 in half. I’m thankful, but it was definitely poor planning that caused this to happen. Like we run our missions, you should backwards plan your new career. I was ready to go so I left. You may hate it, but take your time leaving so you don’t end up like I did. If your new employer really wants you, they will wait.
If you can, start a year out. Get coaching on how to write a resume before you apply for anything. That’s another thing I underestimated. Employers don’t know what the heck a Supply Sergeant or Readiness NCO is, so you are going to need to convert literally every skill you have and position you’ve held. I applied to about 50 jobs before getting professional help from a veterans career counselor. Together, we rewrote my resume to fit a position he found for me. I should have done that on day 1.
Also, write a new resume for each position. As an Operations Assistant I had many roles. The position I’m applying for will dictate how I explain my experience. If it has something to do with budgets, I’ll make sure I mention I managed over 1 mil in deployment training dollars and requested funding annually for training and required schools for soldiers. If it’s HR, I’ll showcase that, and so on.
It’s going to take a good 3-6 months to land a decent job so don’t think you are an exception. Like AGR, positions stay open for about a month, sometimes longer, and they close. It will take another few weeks to screen the resumes and start interviewing. After that, you MIGHT get an offer. The entire process from apply to hire took me a little over a month, but easily could have been longer had I not had a recommendation from someone on the inside before the job posted.
You should always be networking. Every MOS school, every TDY, every deployment, you should be networking with higher ranks and retired military. They may be the person who hires you later on, or at least could be a reference inside the company. If you were/are AGR like me, you understand the power of knowing someone.
If you haven’t set up a LinkedIn profile yet, you are behind. Use this as a virtual networking tool to reach out to recruiters and employees within the company you are looking at.
Quality Over Quantity
If you are thinking like I was, believing that if you just spam applications all over, you are bound to get a interview, you are wrong. In a, “oh crap we don’t have any money” situation it’s pretty dang easy to apply for 10 jobs a day or more. That’s how I hit 100+ so fast. This is a situation you do not want to be in, trust me. I actually didn’t plan on having a job, but instead my plan was to grow my online marketing business at home.
A good teaching point there, always have a backup. Even if you are making six figures online and living the life of your dreams, have a backup. You cannot control what a company will do and how the economy can change overnight.
Think Like A Sniper, not a Mortarman
Instead of applying for 100 jobs, apply for 10 high paying careers you could see yourself doing for the next 5 years. If you have to, take a job, but still be looking for something at or above your previous salary. Do your research on companies who like hiring veterans. Having a current or former military person on the inside to review your resume and help you find a position is a huge bonus. Typically vet friendly employers have a full time program manager who’s job is to bring veterans to the the company.
Learn How to Interview
If you successfully landed an interview, congratulations! If you haven’t interviewed recently, you need to do some studying. Think of it as a board. You wouldn’t walk into a board with CSMs and LTCs in front of you without preparing, at least a little bit right? The interview is the same thing.
If you are bad at interviews, hire someone to coach you. I had someone help me a lot with how to answer certain questions that seem to show a weakness, but turn it around to a strength. Some questions you get are going to be dumb but it’s your job to showcase your ability in every way. Some of the same questions kept popping up.
- What’s your greatest strength?
- What’s your greatest weakness? (tricky)
- Tell me about a time where you went above and beyond what was required of you to get the job done.
- What would you do in X scenario?
Before the interview, think about the answer to these questions and practice answering it, just like a board. You don’t want to have to think back and keep them waiting.
Hopefully this gave you some insight on what to expect during the job hunt after active duty. If this helped you, comment below. If you have any questions, feel free to comment or reach out to me on LinkedIn or via email. I’m always happy to help a fellow vet.