Fighting post-military unemployment on the home front

(BPT) – As the Department of Defense continues its drawdown of American military personnel after decades of major troop deployment, tens of thousands of American troops are preparing to transition out of the military and back into civilian life. The transition will be easier for some than others; but with a solid plan and access to helpful resources, returning heroes can find success and satisfaction in a post-military career.

“Military service members learn important on-the-job skills that make them valuable civilian employees,” says University of Phoenix Military Relations Vice President, retired Army Col. Garland Williams. “Knowing how to market those skills correctly helps ensure a smooth transition into a rewarding job after military service is complete.”

Despite mastering in-demand skills, hurdles often remain. According to a University of Phoenix survey, when past service members were asked about their first civilian job after separation from the military, less than one-third (29 percent) say that they used their military skills to that extent in the civilian workplace. This suggests that while the veteran unemployment rate continues to decline, many veterans may actually be underemployed.

To help transitioning service members maximize the career resources available to not just get a job, but start a viable post-military career, Col. Williams recommends tips to help service members get started:

1. Start early and get connected. Begin the transition process as early as possible. Talk to peers who made transitions and network with as many people as possible to learn about employers who are hiring and who could benefit from your skills. Create a profile on professional networking sites to keep in touch with professional contacts and learn about possible career opportunities. Conduct informational interviews with veterans who are working with companies that appeal to you.

2. Research your education and career options. Use free online tools to investigate degree programs and possible career paths. The Phoenix Career Guidance System can help you research a degree program based on your interests, skills and experience, and provides insight on local job market trends and industry demands. Also, the Military Skills Translator Tool takes your Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) code and suggests a list of related civilian occupations.

3. Brush up on your job-searching skills. Visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s Transitional Assistance Program (TAP), which provides soon-to-be discharged or retired service members helpful information and workshops on job searching, resume and cover letter writing, interviewing techniques and career decision-making. Look for veteran hiring fairs and local hiring events that are taking place across the country. Each year, there are hundreds of Hiring Our Heroes veteran events that help transitioning service members, veterans and their families find viable career options.

4. Speak the language. Communicate military experience and training to hiring employers with words, not acronyms, which may not translate on a resume. Promote skills such as leadership, management, cooperation, teamwork and strategic thinking. Mention these attributes in the cover letter and resume alongside all technical skills. Give your prospective employer specific examples of how you utilized these skills in your various assignments during your military tenure and how they will translate to the job for which you’re being interviewed.

5. Don’t sell yourself short. While job searching, remember the valuable skills you learned in the military can make a real difference for employers. Identify a mentor – preferably someone with a military background who has transitioned successfully and can help guide the job search process and remind you of your strengths and transferable skills.

“Service members have a wealth of resources available to them, but knowing where and how to start the transitioning process can be overwhelming,” says Col. Williams. “However, it’s similar to being in the military – developing a plan of attack can set these jobseekers on a path to future career success.”

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