I despise asking for help, especially career help. I hate feeling weak. I refuse to feel vulnerable. If avoidable, I do not ever want to owe anybody anything. I prefer to take care of it myself and I certainly don’t need to pay for any service that improves me when I am already equipped.
As an active member or veteran of the military services, these are all thoughts that I, and many others, tend to have.
Military members are raised in an environment that fosters leaders—you simply get the mission accomplished. You don’t ask why, you don’t ask to have your hand held, and you certainly don’t need step-by-step guidance on how to reach your centers of gravity (COG).
Everything is on a strategic and tactical level, so that when the commander says to move out, you are prepped to go. These feelings are what myself and other service members must overcome when making the exit from the service. When it comes to transition, you have to ask for help. This applies to mental health, to fitness and most specifically to career transition.
When it comes to résumés, more information is not necessarily better. Members have their countless performance reports they can use to draft a CV that leads to a 20-page document of their career. To that member, nearly every accomplishment was important to their career path, and leaving an element out doesn’t seem to adequately reflect what type of impact they have made.
Creating this résumé becomes overwhelming, stressful and can often end in a paralyzed state where the member for the first time feels a bit defeated. Your résumé should be one to two pages, not a dissertation. You also need more than one version.
Applying for Appropriate Positions
You tend to think your career fate is decided. You assume that you can either: A) Apply for anything that has a keyword that was applicable to your career, or B) Apply for only those positions that have similar missions to the position you held in the service. Neither of these is the proper protocol. There are not specific positions for you, as any position in a company can be filled by a vet. It comes down to the combination of both the subjective and objective tools that you have gained from your time.
I was a logistics officer and I now do HR and own my own company. According to my military timeline, I should be leading semi-truck drivers across the states or working in a foreign embassy. It is the subjective skill sets (leadership, communication, etc.) that also matter.
Knowing the Hiring Process
Coming out of the service, how are you to know who is actually screening your résumé in the hiring process? In the military, you may submit a package for an award or a special humanitarian circumstance, but performance endorsements count for so much that oftentimes you are not involved in the process. How are you to know the difference between a sourcer or a recruiter or a hiring manager or a human resources business partner?
Each person has a specific role in the company and has an integral position in your hiring steps. Not knowing these steps greatly puts you at a disadvantage. Just as you know if you are briefing a general officer, you need to know the background of who you are being grilled by for a new role.
Knowing How to Interview
We all know that you were once probably great. Maybe you commanded 600 people. Maybe you served overseas, speak multiple languages or are a sniper and have the ability to max your PT test in austere conditions. While that is all fine, and definitely sets you above the rest of the typical population, that does not help the individual who is interviewing you for a specific position to see why you make a great fit.
Knowing what the interviewer is looking for is the reverse psychology aspect that you can not inherently know without proper research and education. For the first time ever, you may have to sell someone on why you deserve a role and remember that those doing the hiring probably DO NOT understand your background.
Using Networking/Career Tools
If you have never had to use LinkedIn, Monster or CareerBuilder, why would you know how to use them correctly? Why would you know that keywords are searched, and how would you know which ones are searched for the types of roles you THINK you want?
You must understand that putting your information out there in the proper channels, in the proper format, will skyrocket your chances of being selected for a role. While vets may be at the mercy of the hiring manager in the interview process, getting themselves noticed and to the dance floor is still part of their duty.
The takeaway is this: Transitioning into a civilian career is not easy. You can move into any career field and likely find yourself successful because of your “can-do” attitude, but it is the subjectivity of the traits, coupled with the finesse of the networking and hiring process, that make it complicated.
Ask professionals for help, set your pride aside and realize that your rank does not carry over to the civilian world. The culminating moment for a general I recently prepped in the interview process was when he realized I intimidated him on the phone by asking questions he had never had to think about. If a GO can feel intimidated, become speechless and admit needing guidance from a subject matter expert… so can you.
Ask yourself if you would feel weaker because you sat stagnant without a new civilian career because you didn’t buy into the services you needed, or if you simply asked for help? Asking for help is NOT weak… it is TACTICAL.