Starting Over In Civilian Clothes: Military Transition
From the San Diego
Union-Tribune and the Military Press
By Jo Zakarin,
President, Advanced Training, El Cajon, CA
America's employers are patriotic.
Gone is the era of the Vietnam Veterans returning home with little
respect and few employment prospects.
No matter where today's employer
stands on the war, they are now standing proud of our military. This is
a big plus for our Veterans, but you may not know it, or know how to
Today's veteran faces a challenge
of a different kind: the economy. With unemployment at an all time high,
reenlistment is up. However, not everyone can or will re-enlist.
Veterans need a whole new set of skills to make their transition and
marketability effective in this competitive job market.
Military transition offices are
doing a far better job at acclimating vets to civilian life than in the
past, but I'd like to share an employer's and educator's perspective
with my country's patriots.
Some of The key factors that can effect employment
for Veterans are:
Resumes that look like a Military
No Education or Poor Educational Descriptions
The Inability to Recognize and Market
Transferable Skills and Values
Too often a Veteran lays out
his/her resume in a format that seems like a lesson in cryptography. The
embarrassed employer is afraid to ask "What the heck is a Nuclear Fire
Safety Tech?" So they toss the resume or assume the Vet has no
Over a long period of time I have
come to know the Military, working with them as employees and students.
98% of my company's work force are veterans. Not one of them had a great
resume. I hired them in spite of that fact. My husband is a Veteran, so
he can translate the military speak.
So what should you do? Get rid of
or explain job titles and descriptions that don't exist in civilian
life. If you are some kind of technician, just classify the category and
describe the skill set. Have a civilian friend look at the titles; if
they don't know what it is, the employer won't either. If you must refer
to a military specialty title, make sure you describe what you did in
practical, operational terms. For example, if you were a Torpedoman,
consider describing your duties as "maintained, repaired and operated
complex computer-controlled mechanical, pneumatic and hydraulic
systems." You get the picture.
Always have a cover letter.
Introduce your military experience, number of years served, deployments
etc. up front and be proud. Chances are that introduction is going to
cause a warm, fuzzy, and patriotic feeling in the employer and may get
you an interview just because you are a vet. Trust me on this one. Don't
believe me? Ok, here's a sample.
Say something like, "After 6 years
of proud service in the United States Marine Corps, including three
deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan, I am looking to provide
responsible and loyal service to a company that can recognize my
aptitude to be a stellar employee and valuable team player…"
Love that, don't you? Not a dry eye
in the office and your boot is in the door. Just keep in mind the
difference between confidence and cockiness and you'll be OK. Heck, I
forgot, you already learned that in the military didn't you?
No Education or Poor Educational
I'm not taking about officers or
retired Veterans that often have a BA or even an MBA.
As a lifelong educator, I am often
floored at a Vet's resume when I see no education besides "A" school.
Each soldier has an educational
benefit called Tuition Assistance, it's use it or lose. It renews each
year on October 1st. If you aren't college bound that doesn't
mean you shouldn't go to school.
You can do vocational training in
any field, or gain civilian-recognized certificates in your own field
that can perhaps help you land a job when you get out. If you were my
son or daughter, I'd shake you for dedicating yourself to your country
for 4 to 6 years with no education to show for it. Get down to your
Education Office right now and find out what you should do. They
understand that not all personnel are interested in a college degree
track, and they are trained to help you find the best options for your
Tuition Assistance dollars. In fact, a college degree doesn't always
give you traction. You are competing against a million other new grads
every year. But you have your service to our country and didn't work at
a fast food restaurant while in school.
Please think about this while you
are in the military. It will make transition that much easier. So many
Veterans I speak to regret not taking full advantage of that benefit.
You get the point.
If you attended many schools
through the military, please oh- please spare us civilians and bring a
copy of your "Smart Transcript" to the interview with you. The addition
of all your schools weigh down your resume and unfortunately no one will
take the time to read 3 pages of descriptions in military speak. Be
brief when listing schools and only include those on your resume that
directly relate to the job you are seeking. Yes, you can have several
resumes with different cover letters and objectives for different jobs.
The resume has been elevated to an art form and you need to be Sgt.
The Inability to Recognize and
Market Transferable Skills and Values
I teach job-seeking skills to
students at my school, who have little or no job experience.
The definition of transferable
skills to me means, Skills
transfer readily from one
Those can be computer skills,
medical skills or values and characteristics as simple as leadership
qualities, attendance, communication skills. How about something every
vet can do: follow orders and take direction. I think that's what I like
most about my veteran employees. They really don't argue much and when
they do, they do so respectfully and make it a pleasure to listen. Now
that's a transferable skill employers can value!
How can you add more value to the
cause of hiring you?
If you are a Retired Veteran with
20 or so years in or even an officer, perhaps with your pension you can
be a little negotiable on salary. Let this be known in an interview.
Salary histories can scare off more employers these days than the
Taliban. So many executives have been laid off. Employers can be a
little choosier and there's a good chance someone needs a job so badly
that they will negotiate. Civilians may have a hard time selling that
fact. Employers think: they'll get the job and then leave us for a
higher salary. A Retired Veteran can overcome that objection by saying
"I have a pension and health benefits, so I can be open to your salary
In closing, let me say how proud
the business community is here in San Diego and across the USA of our
future Veteran employees. Your opportunities are endless if you have the
right job-seeking skills. It's not dishonorable to market yourself as
America's finest, because that is what you are.
May God Bless you, keep you, and
provide for your future.
Jo Zakarin is the Owner and
Operator of Advanced Training, a accredited private college offering
training in technical and medical careers in El Cajon. Jo is also a
Certified Financial aid Director and a Commissioner for the Council on
Occupational Education. Jo and Her Husband Keith, who is a Navy Veteran,
have over 50 years of educational experience between them and have
awarded over $46,000.00 in Scholarships to our men and women in the
service over the past 5 years.