Ask Chad about Careers, Part 8 |
By Chad Sowash | chief experience officer at RecruitMilitary and a former infantry drill sergeant in the United States Army |
Published in the July/August 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 separated from the Navy in September 2010 where I was an Operations Specialist for nine years. I am having a problem finding jobs that fit my job experience and description. What can I do to help me better understand and know what jobs I should and should not apply for? I’ve tried categorizing, narrowing down, and extreme searching. Are there any resources or websites out there that can translate my skills or that list potential jobs by skill sets?
This is a very typical situation for many transitioning military. Many employers are just now starting to understand that the military staffs its ranks with quality personnel that represent every type of job that can be found in the civilian sector. Those visionary companies have been able to successfully staff their organizations with quality assets from talent pools that never dry up. But the question is: how can YOU better translate your skills to help the under-educated employer understand what you bring to the table?
First, you need to break down your job into every single component. What did you do daily? Think through every single one of your responsibilities and then make a list of them. Almost every military position consists of logistics, risk management, and many different variations thereof. The amount of logistical and risk management skills I was exposed to as a Senior Drill Sergeant daily was astounding and could never be duplicated on the civilian side. Demonstrate what you have done and what you can bring to the table for the employer.
Were you in a leadership position? The military does not create followers; rather, it builds leaders at a very young age which propels veterans past their civilian counterparts who have to retrieve coffee and take notes at meetings during their early days. Don’t get me wrong – even lowly Privates, performed the same coffee retrieval missions – although the opportunity to lead begins on day one in the military. Use your edge in this area and fully describe the amount of people under your command, as well as what you were able to achieve with those numbers.
Make sure that you highlight all of the military leadership schools and training you received. Be prepared to explain how it helped you then, and how it will continue to help in this new civilian position. Remember, most employers will struggle to fully understand your skills pertaining to the primary job training you received, but what about all of the other ancillary training? Will Combat Lifesaver, Hazardous Materials, Driving, or maybe even the tremendous amount of Equal Opportunity Training be relevant?
The answer is to do the work for the employer by translating your own skills, and framing them in a way to show they are relevant for the position for which you are applying. Last but not least, there are many websites you can use to research translating military occupations into civilian terms, although none can describe your experiences which are not tied to the military occupation better than you can. My opinion would be to start the translating process yourself and then visit a Local Veterans Employment Representative (LVER) in a state workforce location near you to round out the rough edges.
I served in the Army from 1969 – 1971 with a tour of duty in Vietnam. Before and after my military service, I spent several years working for major retail companies. After completing college with the help of my GI Bill, I became a teacher and later a school administrator. After 30 years in that profession, I retired thinking my future was secure, only to find at age 63 that it is not. What are the employment possibilities for someone my age who has been out of the work force for several years?
It is a great advantage that you have been in the civilian market for 40 years, because this gives you a superb understanding of how to articulate the skills sets you bring to the table without having to translate from a military occupation base. Any hiring company you come across should see this as a chance to put a feather in their cap by hiring a veteran who has great civilian workforce experience.
I would assume that you are looking at many career path options now and believe that with the knowledge and experience you bring to the market you could explore getting back into school administration, or possibly even a consulting gig. I suggest that you research the local job market to see what jobs are available. Then, use the business contacts that you built over the last 40 years to NETWORK, NETWORK, and NETWORK some more. Let’s face it – employee referrals are generally the number one hiring source for any company.
I believe the dichotomy of these two experiences demonstrates that we as veterans will always face adversity, whether we are freshly transitioning or forced into change after many years. Although I believe the sole answer will always be that great strength is earned by fighting through adversity.