Service men and women bring unique skill sets to the civilian world. Military experience can translate into proficiency or expertise in many civilian industries. Hire Heroes USA, which helps veterans transform military service into civilian success, cites the following benefits to hiring veterans:
- Accelerated learning curve
- Diversity and inclusion in action
- Efficient performance under pressure
- Respect for procedures
- Technology and globalization
- Conscious of health and safety standards
- Triumph over adversity
The key is to be able to share how your acquired skills can benefit an employer outside of the military.
One of the challenges some veterans face is the ability to translate the skills learned in the military into civilian terms. There are many resources online that can help you translate your responsibilities in your military job to occupations not related to the armed forces. Talk to other veterans with similar backgrounds who have been successful in their transition to industry. Learn about the process they went through and how they were able to best showcase their military experience. Ohio State’s Office of Military and Veterans Services can assist with this.
Most veterans are not traditional-aged college students; they’ve had significant life experiences prior to enrolling in college. Because many veterans have spouses and/or children, families are an important consideration when deciding to pursue a certain career. Take some time to talk through your career decisions with your family and Engineering Career Services to determine what types of opportunities should be targeted.
It is also important to be aware that those you interact with may have made certain assumptions about your life experiences. Some employers are hesitant to hire veterans with a combat background because of perceived mental health issues. PTSD is a service-connected disability covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), so it’s illegal for an employer to ask you about the disability—or refuse you hire you because of it.
Employers may also be concerned that they will lose you as an employee for gaps of time if you are called to serve. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protects civilian job rights and benefits for veterans and members of the Reserves. There is an important educational aspect of the employment process where you can help the potential employer understand your own personal situation and possibly debunk negative associations, since not every veteran has the same story.
As a veteran, your resume will be unique compared to that of a traditional student. Your ECS Handshake job search account features a veteran’s resume template to help you get started in crafting a resume that features your distinctive experiences. You may need to de-militarize your resume somewhat and ensure that the values, skills, or expertise are worded in “layman’s terms” so that the reader understands what you did. Focus on technical, interpersonal, and leadership skills. In additional to utilizing ECS resume templates, take advantage of one-on-one advising, interview coaching, and supplemental job search resources unique to veterans (found in the “Resource Library portion of Handshake). We cannot overemphasize this resource for you to take advantage of. Relay your military accomplishments to these advisors/coaches and see if they understand them by asking these questions:
- What do they mean to civilians?
- Is there something like this in the civilian world?
- How could I better list this in language companies and organizations are looking for?
- What skills and experiences do I have that best overlap with what employers need?
- How do I show my value to an organization?
- This sounds good and is important to me—why should employers care?
Many companies realize the value of hiring workers with military experience; look for companies who mention this on their website or other informational material. Look for companies that back up these statements with concrete evidence of support and understanding like Veterans Employee Resource Groups, mentoring Groups, ESGR (Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve) membership and policies to accommodate those in the Guard and Reserve. Some companies advertise that all Veterans resumes are reviewed by a Veterans committee—here your resume will not be automatically screened out. Jobs with the local, state, and federal government may give also special consideration to Veterans.
Networking should be a focus for veterans—don’t be afraid to use your connections! There are veterans in leadership positions in the civilian world. Ask them about their job search successes – they may even be able to make some introductions. Veterans in hiring roles can also be great resources, as they understand your military experience and can help you find the best fit.
From a logistical perspective, be sure to understand how your tuition benefits work if you pursue experiential learning opportunities (internships/co-ops) during your time in school. The Office of Military and Veterans Services can assist you if you have questions.
As previously mentioned, veterans have skills and qualifications that are valued by potential employers. This can be a main focus during the interview. Most job descriptions include character traits that a veteran already has years of experience with: integrity, leadership skills, discipline, and the ability to work under stress. It’s your job to convince the hiring manager just how you’ll integrate these skills at work. Think about the structure of the military and how that may help you to be a high performer in the workplace. Prepare scenarios ahead of time that effectively showcase your skill sets, and do your best to explain things in civilian terms.
It may be helpful to practice your interview responses. ECS offers mock interviewing, also consider practicing ahead of time with another veteran, especially one who has previous interviewing experience. Groups like Vets4Vets at Ohio State can help connect you the student veterans’ community. Ohio State’s Buckeye Careers and Career Counseling and Support Services often run Veteran events to help in this area—get dialed in to their network as well.
Remember that many civilians are not going to be familiar with the military’s structure, acronyms used, etc., so it’s your job to help them understand these experiences/terminology.
The decision to disclose veteran status is a personal one. Veterans can offer a valuable and unique perspective to others in the workplace and should take that into consideration when making the decision whether or not to share their experiences. Veterans can seek out resources within their company that specifically cater to military service members and their families. Many organizations have special interest groups that bring together people of similar backgrounds and experiences. Keep in mind that it is a valuable skill to work effectively in a team environment, but don’t forget it is important to articulate your personal strengths/needs when necessary as well.