In these tough economic times, there is favorable employment news for men and women who are transitioning from active duty and veterans who already have civilian work experience. Thousands and thousands of employers want to hire veterans, and several companies known as military-to-civilian recruiting firms exist to act as go-betweens in the hiring process, connecting veterans with employers. RecruitMilitary, is in this business—we produce opportunity expos, operate a job board (www.recruitmilitary.com), publish the bimonthly print magazine Search & Employ, and provide retained hiring services in which employers place job orders for us to fill with veterans. All of our services are free to job seekers.
We strongly encourage veteran job seekers to register at www.recruitmilitary.com because employers—yes, thousands and thousands of them—search our database for veterans to fill their openings. The site also has a tremendous number of job postings—143,392 as I write this.
But even in this favorable environment, we find that qualified veterans face several problems in getting hired. Let me address two of them.
1. A belief that only a tiny number of jobs are available. A moment’s reflection will tell you that this belief cannot be true, except in especially hard-hit cities and states. Every month, millions of people leave job openings behind due to retirement, taking a job with another company, getting promoted, getting fired, etc. And jobs are still being created, even though more are being destroyed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4 million people were hired in August 2009. While that figure is down from 4.6 million in August 2008 and the most recent peak of 5.6 million in July 2006, nevertheless 4 million is a lot of hires.
The problem manifests itself among qualified veterans as a low level of activity and enthusiasm in the job-seeking process. For example, our Opportunity Expos attract an average of 375 job seekers per event. That’s pretty good, when you consider that veterans make up a small fraction of the job seekers in the general population. But the turnout should be much higher in these times.
What can we and our competitors in military-to-civilian recruiting do about this problem? Keep reaching out to the veteran community, as I am doing in this blog, saying, “The jobs are out here. There may not be a job for you that is close to you—so you may have to re-locate. But the jobs are definitely out here.”
What can veterans do? Apply, apply, apply. Send resumes around, sure, but don’t rely on them. Pick up the phone. Get in the car. See what’s going on around town. Talk to everyone—not just employers, but also relatives, friends, neighbors, former teachers and coaches, other veterans, the clerk in the store, everyone.
2. A lack of experience among veterans in marketing themselves as job seekers—especially marketing themselves to companies and agencies that are eager to hire veterans. Employers value veterans not only for their skill sets, but also for their personal characteristics such as leadership, initiative, self-discipline, and a strong work ethic.
An important part of self-marketing is learning how to “translate” military skills into civilian counterparts and near-counterparts. For example, it stands to reason that a helicopter mechanic in the armed forces could learn quickly to be an automotive mechanic in the civilian world. So the helicopter mechanic should market himself or herself as a mechanic and emphasize specific skills—for example, maintenance and repair of gear drives.
But what about veterans with combat arms experience? They are prime candidates for law enforcement agencies and private security firms, as you might expect. But companies in virtually all industries also value them for their leadership and their experience in dealing with highly stressful situations. Those companies recognize that they can teach the veterans specific job skills—but they can’t teach the personal characteristics.
How do you market yourself as a leader? Describe your tasks in the military, and emphasize the units and numbers of personnel you led, your people skills, whatever experience you might have had in improving the performance of a unit, unit awards, etc.
Good luck to all veterans who are searching for jobs and all transitioning personnel who are about to enter the job market.
Thank you for your service.