In my previous post, I discussed how military veterans could effectively repackage their military skills and experiences to appeal to civilian employers. Today’s topic centers on choosing a job that can lead to a sustainable, long-term career path.
While this may not be an issue for vets with a specialized degree and/or extensive job experience prior to their military service (you may already know what you want to do in life), there are hundreds of thousands who don’t. And with more than 11 million military veterans and civilians looking for a limited number of jobs, finding one that suits your interests, personality and skills isn’t always easy.
However, they are out there. The key is to stay positive and think creatively, because sometimes the best jobs can be the ones you may overlook.
Consider a Career in Sales
One such job area is sales. Sales jobs often provide a good career transition for veterans because they can easily redirect their military skills, abilities and experience to the responsibilities associated with sales positions.
Qualities and skills most veterans already possess — such as leadership, discipline and problem-solving, as well as being able to manage time well and being goal-oriented — are all well-suited to sales. (Click here to tweet this thought.) In addition, there are many entry-level sales positions that require little or no experience, and many offer exciting income potential, as well as career advancement opportunities.
Because so many sales positions are commission-based, those considering a career in sales should search deeper for companies that offer the best path to a stable income, as well as paid training, employee status, company benefits and cost-free sales leads.
These benefits help to lessen the financial risk and provide some level of security not always found in commission sales jobs. The added bonus of being eligible for a company’s retirement savings plans and health insurance can help sweeten the pot, making a sales job more appealing.
In applying for a sales position, it’s important that your resume and cover letter project a positive attitude, confidence, ambition and determination to work hard and get the job done. In addition, you need to be personable and adaptable and enjoy meeting and working with a wide variety of people. Successful salespeople are typically well-organized and enjoy what they do. To succeed, you need to be able to listen to clients and think on your feet in order to present how your product or service solves a problem or provides a valuable benefit.
Even if you discover eventually that a sales career isn’t for you, the experience you gain from it can be a tremendous foundation that can be used as a stepping stone and carried over into many other fields and positions.
Insurance Sales: A Major Growth Industry
While economic conditions today may still have many industries adding jobs at a very slow pace, one area of sales that continues to offer opportunity and growth is insurance. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of insurance agents and managers is projected to grow 22% over the next seven years — faster than the average for all occupations.
Because the field of insurance sales typically has no age barriers, it can be an ideal choice for some of the hardest-hit segments of unemployed workers, such as young adults transitioning out of the military and older workers who have been laid off or have stopped looking for jobs. For those individuals with good communication skills and a solid work ethic, insurance sales can offer limitless opportunities for personal advancement and financial growth.
Conducting the Job Search
If you’re interested in a sales position, there are many ways to conduct your initial online search. In insurance, for example, check out the websites of leading insurance firms in your area or nationwide. Most will have a careers page detailing hiring plans and job postings. Also check out sites that specialize in recruiting veterans, such as www.vetjobs.com, and those that publicize employers looking to hire vets.
In searching on digital job boards or other employment websites, make your search as specific as possible. If your search is too broad, you’ll likely be confronted with 100,000+ results. You can narrow down by doing a more advanced search that filters, for example, by job posting date, type of company, functional job description or geographic area.
It also pays to make a special effort to seek out military-friendly employers. Combined Insurance, for example, has hired more than 1,000 military veterans since 2010, and we look to continue hiring veterans through 2013 and beyond. For the past two years, we’ve been recognized by G.I. Jobs magazine as a top military-friendly employer. We also make a significant investment in getting our new sales agents off to a successful start by providing comprehensive paid sales training, employment status and the opportunity to define your own career path.
I hope this post has given you some food for thought. Stay tuned ―in the next post, I’ll be focusing on putting your best self forward in the interview process.
Veterans, could a career in sales be right for you?
Peter Leighton is Executive VP 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 career recruitment programs for veterans and plans to hire 1,000 vets in 2013.