Former service members bring a wide array of skills to the civilian workforce based on their military education and experience, as well as their work histories prior to active duty. In the military, many thrived in tough situations, mastered sophisticated technologies and became experts in their own right in law, accounting and finance, administration, IT, or communications and marketing. They also developed soft skills critical to most disciplines, including leadership, cooperation, discipline, adaptability and critical thinking.
Transitioning from a military to a civilian career offers new experiences that can be exciting and lucrative. But the sudden transition can also be stressful. What are the options when it comes to careers for military veterans? And how do you land these positions? Here are tips to help you transition to a new career with greater ease.
Starting your search
Check out a military-to-civilian occupation translator, like this one, to match your military skills and experience to civilian occupations. Many organizations make it part of their company mission to hire veterans; a website like VetCentral can direct you to those firms, or you can contact Robert Half for help.
Keep in mind that a job search can be a full-time job in itself and that finding a good position can take a long time. Don't take the duration of an employment search as a reflection on your personality or skills — many people search for weeks or even months before landing the right position.
Getting more education or training in your current field or working on a degree in a new area is a natural and positive way to transition to your new life, and the military encourages this choice with financial support. Check out the Post-9/11 GI Bill for more information about assistance you can depend on if you decide to go back to school.
You may also consider starting your own business. The skills needed to be a business owner are similar to the ones you developed during your tenure in the military: tenacity, vision, self-motivation, leadership, integrity and competitiveness, among others. The Small Business Administration is a helpful resource for military veterans starting their own businesses.
Job hunting as a veteran
As you reenter the civilian workforce, pay attention to these job-hunting essentials:
- Research — Gather as much information as possible on companies you're targeting. Do they have any special programs for veterans or available positions that require security clearance?
- A focused resume — Your resume should highlight transferable skills and experience, such as previous leadership roles, as well as soft skills and technical expertise. Civilian employers may not be familiar with military terminology, so spell out any acronyms.
- A customized cover letter — For private sector positions, a cover letter provides an opportunity to briefly showcase how you can contribute in specific ways. It does not serve the same function as the resume.
- Appropriate clothing — When meeting with hiring managers and recruiters at a job fair or recruiting event, you should dress to impress.
- A positive attitude — A genuine smile, firm handshake and upbeat demeanor make any job applicant more desirable.
Where to search
Some companies and organizations offer specific programs for hiring former military personnel. Victory Media publishes an annual list of its top 100 military-friendly employers, which can be a useful research tool. VetCentral also publishes a list of federal contractors and other military-veteran-friendly employers. Here are a few organizations helping veterans find jobs in the civilian labor market:
Veterans Affairs (VA) — A good starting point for any vet is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Through its Make the Connection website, returning veterans can find resources to help make the transition to civilian life. The VA also offers other websites for helping veterans find jobs.
Feds Hire Vets — The U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s veterans employment website lets military men and women receive federal government job postings matched to their skills and expertise.
Hire Heroes USA — This nonprofit organization dedicated to helping veterans find jobs runs Warrior Transition Workshops for veterans and their spouses. Workshops take place throughout the year at major military bases, and additional workshops are held in conjunction with local chambers of commerce.
Company programs — Many companies have programs specifically designed to encourage veterans to apply for job opportunities with their organizations. We Hire Heroes is a veteran-run organization that operates local job boards in major cities and offers resources for veterans, as well as employers who want to hire former military members.
Operation IMPACT Network of Champions — Northrop Grumman's Operation IMPACT Network of Champions is a group of companies and nonprofits dedicated to helping injured veterans (or their surrogates) find jobs and transition from the military to a civilian career.
Robert Half is helping veterans find jobs
Our resource-rich website features job-search tools geared specifically toward veterans and the talents they bring to the workplace. Candidates can enter a variety of military position titles and be matched to job openings that require similar skills. Those opportunities are within Robert Half itself or with Robert Half’s clients who represent the accounting and finance, technology, administrative, legal and creative and marketing fields.
Veterans, filter your job search using military codes and titles at the Robert Half Career Resources for Veterans page.