First, I want to personally thank the veterans who protect us and keep our country safe.
But you deserve more than just our thanks. You deserve a job after your military tour ends and you return to civilian ranks.
That would be nice if a job was guaranteed to returning vets, but it’s not reality.
Lack of decent job search training is probably the biggest reason returning veteran unemployment numbers are so much higher than overall unemployment. Today, returning vets have a much more difficult time finding work than the average worker. The unemployment rate for returning vets is 2 – 3 times the overall unemployment rate, depending on which measurement you use.
Most published vet unemployment numbers are total vets or vets of Afghanistan and Iraq, many of whom have been out of the military for a long time, since the war has lasted so long … so these numbers aren’t a relevant measure to vets who have recently returned to civilian life.
No matter how you measure it, unemployed vet numbers are a disgrace, but my disgust won’t find vets a job … and neither will the government. It’s totally up to you, a task that many vets haven’t been adequately trained to accomplish. The job search training given to our vets is lousy, at best reflecting a job market that we haven’t seen for many years.
Other reasons for high recent vet unemployment are employers fears of PTSD. It’s not just fear of a worker going postal endangering others in the workplace, but employers also fear post-service depression, alcohol and drug abuse that affect about 25% of returning vets. Most get past these issues, but the percentages cause bias and fear in some employers. It’s not fair to returning vets, but it’s a real issue for employers.
By the way, while today’s article was written for returning vets, most of these concepts can be used by civilians to give them an extra edge in their job search.
Here’s 6 ways returning vets can gain an advantage in today’s job market:
- Language: The Armed Forces and civilians (including employers) use different languages. You could explain an accomplishment from a military point of view and it probably won’t be viewed as relevant from civilian hiring managers. Worse, it won’t get through Applicant Tracking Systems, because HR reps and recruiters use civilian terms as search criteria and ATSs don’t recognize synonyms – only exact matches of key words/phrases.
- Translate Military-Speak & Jargon: Translate military-speak to civilian-speak. Military terminology, titles, metrics, processes have their own unique terms. Employers, even employers who had prior military service, probably won’t recognize your acronyms and jargon – they probably used different jargon and acronyms in their own units during an earlier timeframe.
- Superior Information: You can gain an advantage over other candidates when you have superior information to your competitors. You won’t find superior information on Google, on a company website or on the job description – that’s all public information. In addition, it’s all obsolete information … Companies don’t want to tell competitors, customers or shareholders about their current problems and issues.
- Focus On Problems Solved, Not Job Description: It’s difficult for vets to show they meet job descriptions, since military and civilian language is so different and since ATSs look for exact word/phrase matches. However, veterans (and non-vet candidates) are more desirable when they show employers that they’ve already solved key employer problems. This is far more powerful than just matching a list of requirements. Since employers don’t want to publicly describe their problems, they use skills as a proxy. Employers really aren’t after the skills … instead they’re after solutions. But just because a candidate has the required skills, it doesn’t mean that candidate has solved the important problems of the day.
- Brand Yourself As Superior Candidate: Most candidates have been taught to brand themselves to look just like everyone else. This is one reason why the job search training given to vets is inadequate to help them find jobs, because they are trained to brand themselves as a commodity. When a returning vet makes himself look just like the rest of their competition, he looks different in only one way … his last job was in the military, rather than the civilian workforce. Instead, when you brand yourself as a superior candidate, you stand head and shoulders above your competition, rather than looking the same as everyone else.
- Customized Resume: Each employer has different problems, different goals and different priorities. Each employer has its own unique language, using different terms for metrics, processes and titles. So even if you’re applying for similar customer service positions … each employer will have unique needs and terminology. If you use the same (or just a tweaked) resume for the jobs you apply for, your odds are terrible that you’ll get through pre-screening processes. Even if you do, you won’t look like a superior candidate to an employer … because you’re using an average resume for an average job.
Instead, public information is all about problems that have already been solved – so it’s not worth much to a candidate. After all, you want to use this information to show you’ve solved similar problems to the hiring manager’s priority issues. Do you really think employers would want to hire someone who solved problems that the employer already solved … or problems the employer faces now?
When you brand yourself as a superior candidate … the fact that you were serving in the armed forces when you solved the employer’s key problems becomes unimportant.
We all owe a debt to our veterans who protect us.
This is my way of saying thanks – by helping those vets who have kept us safe to find a good job when their service to our country has ended.
Just because the government gives you inadequate job training, doesn’t mean you have to let that poor training block your access to civilian job markets. You can still find help designed for today’s job market. I’m proud to provide that help to both returning vets and civilian job seekers.
Any veteran readers out there who have recently found jobs … please comment and share your success stories. What strategies have you found successful in finding a job when you returned from service?-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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