Unemployment is high, we know that. Many sources indicate it is higher among veterans than civilians. However, many private sector organizations are actively recruiting veterans, so I’d like to talk about that for a minute.
As a nation of veterans who need employment and employers who need to fill open job requisitions, we are stuck and need to get unstuck quick. The issue: currently the military is sending veterans out into the civilian workplace with civilian-unfriendly resumes, and civilian recruiters (as a rule) do not know how to decipher a military resume.
The easy solution is to send veterans to a resume-writing service, and employers to the various online cross-walks that map military jobs to civilian jobs. However, this is not getting the job done. More is needed. I’d like to offer a tip to each group: veterans in search of employment, and employers in search of veterans and/or talented job candidates.
Tip for Veterans: Sit down with someone who does not have military experience (as a service member, spouse, child, etc.). Walk through your resume with them and make note of all the things they ask you to define or explain. Plan on a lengthy conversation in which the objective is to work together to translate your military experience into words and concepts that have meaning to civilian recruiters.
Encourage your partner in this activity to ask questions such as, “What does that mean?” and “How did you accomplish that?” and “What did you learn from that experience? What did you teach others in that experience?” The questions may seem basic and the answers obvious but, I assure you, they will not be to a civilian. Ideally, you will find a person to work with on this with vast experience in the civilian workplace, but this is not a necessary criterion. (A bonus tip: read my tip for employers below, as it will give you insight to where they’re coming from.)
Tip for Employers/Recruiters: Ask for the story. Avoid the tendency to focus only on the most recent position held, as it does not represent the previous positions. In other words, a civilian’s chronological resume usually positions the most recent job at the top, which represents the highest level of career achievement (unless they moved backwards in their career). If you asked such a person to tell the story of his or her resume, it would likely be one that progresses logically over time, with the crescendo being the most recent job held.
A military resume is different in this regard. Careers don’t necessarily progress vertically, but horizontally. Meaning: one job doesn’t necessarily lead to or advance to the next job. They may be unrelated in any or every way, from duties performed, oversight of staff and other resources, degree of teamwork versus individual contribution. For this reason, it is really important to look at the resume as a whole and ask questions about various duties and job titles. When you ask a military job candidate for the story of his or her military service, expect to be amazed by the diversity of experiences, skills and knowledge across the various jobs held. For example, if you want to know about leadership experience, you could ask, “Which of these jobs required the most of you from a leadership perspective? Tell me about that,” rather than asking, “I see that you haven’t managed big teams in the last two jobs. Was there a problem with your leadership skills?” (I’m sure you would never really ask this last part, but you might understandably think it to yourself!)
As always, I welcome your thoughts and ideas, and consider this an opening to dialogue. Please let me hear from both sides of the table: veterans and civilian employers, as it will add to the awareness of all.