For years, unemployment among (OIF/OEF) veterans, or those who have actively served in the military since September 2001, hovered above 10 percent as thousands were unable to find a job after returning from their duties overseas.
Fortunately, that number fell out of double-digit territory by the end of 2012, and now sits at 9.9 percent. But considering the national unemployment rate has fallen to 7.6 percent, it appears more needs to be done to ensure military service members have strong job prospects once they return stateside.
As a growing number of service members make the transition into civility once again, many are finding that they can use social media – predominately LinkedIn – to highlight the skills they learned during their tenure in the military, according to the Military Wallet. With more than 200 million users, LinkedIn has given veterans the chance to connect with employers and industry leaders in a way that they previously wouldn't have.
Military personnel who have found success through LinkedIn say that getting their job search off the ground was much easier using the social media site. All it takes to get going is to start with a profile, and move forward from there. This can also help you build relations with a staffing company, further improving your chances of finding a job.
Setting up your profile
Your LinkedIn profile is more than just a place to share industry-related news articles and list your skills, as it also serves as an online presence for you, and should communicate all your skills to a potential employer. It takes the traditional resume a few steps further, allowing you to list any accomplishment you think is noteworthy without having to condense it to one page, and it is also based on interaction. That is to say your skills can be endorsed by other users and you can post letters of recommendation for all potential employers to see.
"You can create a LinkedIn profile in about 5-10 minutes, but like everything else, you only get from it what you put into it," wrote veteran and small business owner Ryan Guina. "Think about the last resume you wrote. It probably took a couple hours of collective work to put it together. Your LinkedIn profile is similar."
To optimize your LinkedIn profile, you can use a few tips that are widely recognized as ways to boost your profile's appeal.
What to add
When choosing a picture, be sure to use a professional photo that shows off your face. When employers come across a potential employee, they'll want to put a face to your name and list of skills. Below this you should focus on writing a very strong headline and statement. Just as you would on a resume, make this as concise and to-the-point as possible, as you only have a few seconds to grab a recruiter's attention. Above all though, make it unique. This shows you are truly a one-of-a-kind candidate.
According to the news source, employers love to see additions to your profile that do not involve your professional life. Whether it's outside clubs you belong to, hobbies, activities, volunteer work or anything else, this will help an employer relate to you as a real person.
As a veteran, you likely developed several skills that can be easily transferred into the workforce. Perhaps you did logistics for one of the armed services, which you can put on your resume and will be seen by anyone in the warehousing, shipping, logistics and transportation sectors as a valued skill. Staffing agencies have commented time and again that veterans often have great skills in these areas.
There are also a number of LinkedIn groups veterans should be sure to join to help bolster their job search efforts. These groups include Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Iraq War Veterans and/or Operation Iraqi Freedom Veterans, Military Friendly Employers and Military Network, among others.
In 2012, there were 21.2 million veterans in the U.S., data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show. By arming these candidates with the ability to easily connect with employers and potentially find a job, the nation could significantly boost employment while rewarding the honorable work they performed.