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Tips for Veterans Transitioning to the Civilian Workforce

With their backs facing the camera, a man and woman wearing hard hats walk through a shipping container yard.

The transition to civilian life can be tricky to navigate, but the workplace is one area where veterans are especially equipped for success.

To get more insight into how veterans can approach their job search, we talked to Aerotek Military and Defense Recruiter, Lindsay Wondrack. Her years of experience helping veterans get their boots in the doors of civilian employers can help you — or a service member in your life — find that next opportunity.

Know what you bring to the table

The military emphasizes teamwork and integrity: first, last and sometimes only. This is a great attitude to carry with you after being placed in a position — but it can be an impediment to getting you the job. This is one time when you can, and should, make it about you.

“When I’m working with veterans I want to get as much information as possible about their goals, skills and experiences,” says Wondrack.

When reviewing your experiences, recognize that many of the skills you learned in the military might not be widely available in the civilian workforce. Be sure to share some of the qualities you gained while in the military. Wondrack says, “Veterans tend to do more than what their title implies. It’s important to communicate all your experiences on your resume.”

It’s great to be up-front with employers in discussing any skills you’ve developed in the course of your service. You never know what part of your background an employer might view as translatable skills in the civilian workforce.

Wondrack emphasizes ensuring you’re taking holistic look at your skills regardless of your job title. “For example, many Culinary Specialists in the Navy are also trained in other areas such as maintenance and ship preservation work which easily translate into the civilian workforce. You want to make sure those skills are highlighted on your resume, so you don’t miss out on potential opportunities.”

Learning the civilian terminology for your skills makes you more marketable. You may have learned how to be an “engineman” in the military, but not every hiring manager will understand what type of work is done in that role. Adding “diesel mechanic” or “marine mechanic” in parenthesis next to the original job title will help hiring managers understand the full scope of your skills.

“I recently worked with an Aviation Ordnanceman who assembled and disassembled weapons. We tailored his resume towards mechanical assembly and quickly got an interview and accepted an offer for a mechanical assembler role.” says Wondrack.

It is also very useful to highlight awards, certifications and any schooling completed in the military.

Determine your desired pay

Before you start your job search it’s important to have a desired pay range in mind. “I work with a lot of people who want to make what they made in the military but don’t have a specific number in mind. It is beneficial to break down your take home from the military and translate that into a reasonable hourly or salary rate before you start searching for employment.”

Veterans should enter their job search understanding that common military benefits like housing assistance aren’t offered by most employers.

You can ease the transition early on by taking some time to determine how these extra costs impact your desired pay. Wondrack encourages the veterans she works with to be curious and ask questions early on for better results in their job search.

Don’t go it alone

The move to civilian life is an opportunity to explore both military and civilian career services. “I work with veterans who are looking for their first job four years after high school and I work with 20-year Navy vets who’ve never had to search for a job before. I stress to them to be curious and use their resources,” says Wondrack. “This is where Aerotek plays a huge role in helping transitioning veterans. Our military and defense recruiters are knowledgeable of the job market and can help provide guidance on the market, typical pay ranges, locations where jobs are available, etc.”

There are numerous options available to veterans seeking work.

The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) is a curriculum for veterans entering civilian life. Along with supporting the switch to a civilian lifestyle, TAP also educates veterans on how to navigate their career options. Don’t overlook popular career services like LinkedIn or Indeed. Creating a profile on these platforms increases the odds of finding the right job.

“Getting veterans established on these platforms generates more opportunities for them to be contacted by professionals in their trade who can connect them to employers or provide information on specific job markets,” says Wondrack.

When you’re making the transition to the civilian workforce, be sure to visit our job board to find your next great opportunity.