Job Search Advice – Ask Chad about Careers, Part 7

Ask Chad about Careers, Part 7  |

By Chad Sowash  |  chief experience officer at RecruitMilitary and a former infantry drill sergeant in the United States Army  |

Published in the March/April 2011 issue of print Search & Employ®  |

Chad Sowash answers career questions submitted by men and women who are transitioning from active duty to civilian life, veterans who already have civilian work experience, members of the National Guard and reserve forces, and military spouses.

I am a Vietnam Era Vet, and I am currently out of work due to layoff. Can you identify some effective strategies for those of us in the 50+ age range? Everywhere I go, there are employers looking to hire newly-separated vets, but when they find out that I am 58 years old, the brakes are applied to the hiring process. I accentuate my work experience and even mention that I am in perfect health, etc.

Unfortunately, what you are describing may be age discrimination, which is unlawful – and violations are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). First, educate yourself on age discrimination at the EEOC’s website: If, after review, you believe you are a victim of discriminatory practices, I would start by contacting the company’s Compliance Officer and explaining the situation. If you hit a dead end, you can always file a complaint with a local EEOC representative, who will open a case for you.

Personally, I would continue down the road of trying to help hiring companies better understand your finer qualities and experience, rather than filing complaints. Federal contractors are having issues finding qualified veterans, not just transitioning soldiers. You can find a comprehensive list on of federal contracting companies on

I am a Navy Veteran interested in finding a career, and I have a visible tattoo of a cross on my hand. What type of jobs can I do with my business and technical degree that will not require me to cover or remove my tattoo?

A tattoo cannot define you, so don’t let it. Your tattoo does not limit your ability to work in any way, shape, or form. However, it does give your interviewer something to use to start shaping a perception about you as a person. So I am going to give you the same advice I would give you if you did not have the tattoo – but I’m saying it a little more strongly: Bring your “A Game” to the interview by dressing for the part, including a suit, if appropriate, a fresh shave and haircut. Practice your interview answers so that they flow and do not seem like awkward responses. The key to counteracting potential negative perceptions revolves around your ability to project your confidence, enthusiasm, and experience related to the job. Remember: everyone wants to work with a person who is motivated and has a great attitude.

I occasionally see on an application for employment a question about veteran status. I don’t believe it matters one bit to the employer. Am I right or wrong about that?

This is not a right or wrong, black or white answer. Many companies believe they have an obligation to find veterans for their positions. Some are pushed to hire veterans through regulation, while others simply do not understand what we bring to the table.

But employing veterans IS important to thousands of companies nationwide, especially if they are federal contractors. Federal regulations enforced by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) stipulate that federal contractors must provide and prove veteran outreach efforts through the Jobs for Veterans Act and the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act. This does not mean the company must hire you. However, after working with many of these organizations over the years, especially federal contractors, my experience has been that these companies usually go out of their way to find qualified veteran candidates. Last year, I gave over 50 presentations to thousands of employers and provided many with specialized consultations that focused on hiring transitioning veterans who met their job requirements.

If a company asks if you are a veteran, I believe it is a mistake not to answer with a resounding “YES!” I also think it is a major mistake to go into the application process or interview without wearing your military experience on your sleeve, so to speak. I believe declaring yourself as a veteran always matters!

I am a former USMC Maintenance Management Chief/Officer. I have been working as a contractor since 2007, and I’m interested in obtaining a federal job. Do you have any inside scoop for this 12-year veteran?

Anyone with a military background is in luck when looking for a job in a federal agency. On November 9, 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13518, aimed at increasing the hiring of military veterans for federal government jobs. The Executive Order on the Employment of Veterans in the federal government established the Veterans Employment Initiative for the Executive Branch. This endeavor stresses the importance of recruiting and training veterans, seeks to increase veteran employment within the Executive Branch, and helps recently hired veterans adjust to service in the civilian sector. The Order sets up a Veterans Employment Program office within most federal agencies, which will help veterans identify federal employment opportunities, and provide feedback to veterans about their employment application status. The program will also extend a hand to veterans who have recently gone to work for these agencies, and help them adjust to a workplace culture that can be markedly different from military service.

In addition, the Order creates a government-wide strategic plan focused on creating an infrastructure to promote continued skills development and employment success for veterans. Marketing strategies aimed at agency hiring managers as well as veterans and transitioning service members are also components of the plan. At the end of Fiscal Year 2008, there were approximately 480,000 veterans working within the federal government. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano emphasized her department’s goal of hiring 50,000 veterans by 2012 at a recent meeting with representatives of veterans’ organizations.

There are special online initiatives with supporting resources called Feds Hire Vets ( This initiative includes U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Department of Defense, Department of Labor, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Department of Homeland Security.

The job search will provide a full list of federal government jobs, while the National Labor Exchange at will provide the same federal jobs plus state government opportunities.

Drive on!


About the Author

This article was written by Chad Sowash