We’ve all heard that unemployment is a serious problem in the U.S. However, for our country’s servicemen and women who are in the process of transitioning out of the military to resume their lives in the civilian world, the situation is worse.
With July 2013 unemployment numbers showing 7.7% for post 9/11 veterans (above the national average of 7.4%), military veterans continue to struggle to find jobs. But in addition to entering or re-entering a really tight job market, they also face the added challenge of positioning their military skills and experience onto a resume that gets the attention of civilian employers.
For example, someone who served as a gunner’s mate—responsible for operating and maintaining missile launching systems, rocket launchers and other ordnance systems and equipment—would probably have a tough time describing how their skills could benefit a prospective employer.
Yet if you think about it, a gunner’s mate has to be analytical and detail-oriented. They need to be problem-solvers, strategic thinkers and good at training and supervising crews. In addition, the job demands a high comfort level with operating and maintaining machinery. All of these skills are easily transferable to today’s job market and desired by many employers.
So the challenge, then, becomes figuring out how to extract the desirable experience and qualifications gained in the military and repackage them to impress prospective employers.
What Skills Are Employers Looking For?
The first question to answer when applying for a position is: How can I make this employer see and believe that I have the skills to fill this position and bring value to the company, especially as a result of my time in the service?
The answer will depend on the kind of position you’re applying for and the specific skills required for that job. For example, the gunner’s mate mentioned earlier–or sailors who served on ships or submarines–could talk about their mechanical and technical talents and their ability to learn quickly how machinery and mechanical systems work.
Another example may be technicians trained in radar systems, high tech communications or cryptography, who could cite that experience and relate it to today’s information and digital technology. Personnel involved in military recruiting, training and public affairs can easily adapt their communications, organization and management skills to the civilian world of sales and marketing positions, public relations, trade associations and non-profit organizations. And service members involved in construction, welding, electrical work or facility maintenance and repair services can describe how their experience gave them specific knowledge and skills that would be useful in the building trades, repair and installation work and plant maintenance.
The point is to make the job application and resume stand out from the crowd by communicating how your military experience and past employment history can be of value in fulfilling the company’s needs and the requirements of the position.
What Qualities Do Employers Look For in Candidates?
In addition to work experience, there are personality traits that many employers also desire. Traits associated with military veterans—such as being responsible, disciplined, dedicated and hardworking—are highly desired by employers. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
A quick review of classified ads and online job sites reveals some of the general character traits and attitudes employers are seeking in job applicants. Here are some key phrases frequently seen in job descriptions and ways you can use them in your application, resume or interview:
- Hardworking, motivated – Highlight examples of a strong work ethic and the desire to succeed.
- Disciplined, reliable – Communicate that you are serious about the job, are willing to do what needs to be done and will follow through even when faced with setbacks.
- Team player – Convey that you are able to work cooperatively with coworkers, follow direction and also lead the team when called upon.
- Can-do attitude – Display self-confidence and a positive attitude in presenting your skills and experience and answering any question.
Ask any employer, and they’ll tell you that a positive attitude, honesty, integrity, commitment and a willingness to do what it takes to perform the job well are major factors in their hiring decisions. Whether it’s in sales, construction, manufacturing, technology or any other industry, knowing how to position your skills and experience, combined with a great attitude, can help land you on an employer’s hiring shortlist.
Resources for Veterans
Combined Insurance is committed to helping veterans transition into the civilian workforce. We work closely with the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), a partnership among the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs and the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service.
TAP was established to meet the needs of servicemen and women transitioning out of the military and into civilian life by offering job search assistance and workshops, support and counsel. Combined Insurance participates in TAP classes to help transitioning servicemen and women translate their military experience, repurpose their skills and revise their resumes to help make them more attractive to civilian employers.
We consider it an honor and privilege to serve those who have served our country. Be sure to watch for upcoming posts, where we’ll discuss choosing a career and brushing up on interview skills.
Peter Leighton is Senior Vice President of Recruiting for Combined Insurance, a leading provider of individual supplemental insurance products and part of the ACE Group of Companies. Combined Insurance is a participant in several military veteran career recruitment programs and plans to hire 1,000 vets.