The veteran job search can be rough, but that doesn’t mean you should accept the first job that comes your way.
You've given your all for your country and freedom, spent years dedicating your life to a greater purpose, and now you're finally ready to settle in and return to civilian life.
With government assistance and company tax breaks, veterans looking for work have a ton of opportunities awaiting them. The problem isn't finding the right job as a veteran; it's knowing which job fits with your goals.
Many companies advertise their veteran-friendly policies and work environments for PR, marketing, and tax incentives. Yes, they might care about your service commitment, but the proof is in the pudding. Learn to ask simple questions before accepting the job to determine whether it's the right fit or not.
Ask them about the position's daily responsibilities.
Every candidate should clearly understand the job criteria and daily responsibilities before setting foot into an interview. Most companies include this information in the job placement ad. Some ads are very clear about the job, while others give a short, general description that fits almost all positions.
Ask the recruiter or hiring manager to explain the job in detail before scheduling an interview. Should the recruiter fail to adequately describe the job, or if no information is available prior to the interview, make sure to ask the hiring manager to clarify any questions you may have early on in the interview.
Learn about potential job changes during the year.
Almost every job changes during the course of the year. For example, retail managers work on payroll, recruitment, marketing and sales plans. During the holiday months, however, they may need to stock shelves, place display devices, or run the cash register for absent employees. It's best to learn about these changes early. This gives you more time to prepare, or decide if you're capable of performing the seasonal duties.
“Busy time” is another area to investigate. All industries have slow seasons. During these phases, you may work on a couple of short-term projects. During the busier months, the company may look to you for more hours, ability to manage several long-term projects, or ask you to fill in for absent team members. Ask the hiring manager about the busiest months and what to expect.
Does the company have a high success rate with veteran employment?
Is working at a company that places a high level of importance on the veterans they hire a priority? If so, ask the hiring manager to provide examples of other successful veterans who have worked there. How long did they stay? Did they receive promotions? What were their accomplishments? What did they do to succeed, and what was the outcome of that success?
If the hiring manager looks uncomfortable, or dodges the question, this could be a red flag. Don't push for more answers on veteran employment; just keep it in the back of your mind. This could be an indicator of failed attempts or unwillingness to work with veterans. On the other hand, it could signal that you are the company's first attempt at proactively hiring a veteran. This isn't a bad thing. Being the first veteran on the payroll gives you the opportunity to show what you and your peers can do, and opens doors for future veteran applicants.
Understand promotion opportunities.
If you're like almost every other job candidate, future promotions and earning potential are important. Most companies look to internal team members to fill new, senior positions. This helps them avoid costly hiring processes, like orientation, training, background checks, etc. Not to mention, internal team members understand the company's mission and customer values.
Ask the hiring manager whether the company offers opportunities for advancement, and explain that you're willing to prove yourself and take the steps and time necessary to advance. Also, ask for data. How often do they promote from within? Do they offer programs to prepare employees for increased responsibility? Be sure to explain your commitment to personal growth. Tell them about the education and training you plan to complete.
Is the company open to change and ideas?
It's sad, but many companies aren't open to ideas from entry-level team members or new recruits. This is especially true for major corporations. The C-suite usually determines the standard operating procedures, and strictly enforces rules and regulations. On the other hand, some teams have a little more flexibility and room for creativity. Ask the interviewer if the company is open to ideas, and provide an example of a successful idea and change.
Keep in mind that with most positions, regulation adherence cannot bend. Government entities require strict compliance. HIPPA, FERPA, and Sarbanes-Oxley are prime examples of no-nonsense compliance. Your military background fits nicely with these regulations. Explain to the hiring manager that, while you enjoy the flexibility to bring new ideas to the table, you also understand and appreciate rules, and know orders must be followed. Use your military-to-civilian resume to explain your ability to adhere to regulations.
Communication with senior team members is a must.
Communication is the key between employees and their supervisors. A breakdown in communication signals serious failures in a business. It also signals how isolated senior-level managers are from their departments. Determine whether supervisors communicate regularly with their subordinates. Ask the hiring manager about team communication, whether supervisors know their team by name, and how communication is carried out.
If the hiring manager describes communication as meetings, memos, emails, etc., this could signal a red flag. Management should be open to casual conversation, meet with team members individually, or tour the office regularly. Ask the hiring manager to describe the relationship between executive management and lower-level personnel. Does the CEO regularly visit other departments? Does the department manager connect with others in their department? You're looking for a healthy balance between appropriate connection and supervision. While you don't want a supervisor who hides behind emails, micromanagers will distract from your productivity.
Take advantage of veteran job-search tools.
There are several tools available for veterans entering the civilian workplace. Here are a few of the best services to help you transition from the military to a non-service career:
Hiring Our Heroes. One of the largest organizations providing career advice for veterans is Hiring Our Heroes. This veteran employment program is a joint effort between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Fortune 500 Companies and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Chamber and VA officials work diligently with companies to help connect vets and executives. It serves as a networking solution for both veterans and those who might hire them Hiring Our Heroes hosts job fairs and training seminars throughout the year in nearly all major states.
Military.com. Career marketing giant Monster hosts Military.com as one of the nation's largest veteran job search boards and career blogs. They provide resources for all active duty personnel, reservists, guard members, retirees, veterans, family members, defense workers and those considering military careers. While Monster founded the site primarily for career efforts, Military.com also lists benefits, support groups, and other resources.
Lockheed Martin Military Skills Translator. Translating military positions into civilian-friendly terms is not the easiest tasks. Lockheed Martin employs an online tool to help veterans translate their military skills into civilian positions. The tool uses titles, keywords, and occupational codes to determine where your skills fit. Once Lockheed's online military skills translator “civilianizes” a service member's work experience, applicants can better communicate their skill sets to civilian employers and human resources professionals.
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