Joining forces with us for this blog post is Lisa Rosser, SHRM Member and HR professional.  Lisa Rosser heads the HR consulting firm, The Value of a Veteran.  A military veteran herself, who served for 10 years of active duty in the army and 12 years in the Army Reserve, Rosser now uses her military and HR expertise to advocate for the hiring of military veterans by providing corporate training programs on how to recruit military talent.

As someone who knows that the military job candidate possesses skills that could suit them for careers in fields as diverse as media and graphic arts, supply chain and logistics, engineering, finance and accounting—to name a few, Rosser also understands that sometimes this remarkable portfolio of skills is often lost in translation to the non-military native.  She offers some advice for military members in transition.

1. Get connected on LinkedIn.
Join, create a profile, and start listing your skills and experience.  LinkedIn recently launched a special microsite for military in transition, offering tips on job hunting and a one-year free subscription to a Job Seeker Premium account. Your profile is read by both defense contractor recruiters who better understand military acronyms, and civilian recruiters who do not.  Therefore, Rosser recommends you offer a military-to-civilian translation for each position you’ve held.

For example, don’t only write that you were the ‘S-3 Training NCO, 6/52 ADA BN, Darmstadt, Germany’.  “Most civilians have no idea what that means,” says Rosser.  Instead, add in parentheses (Training Specialist – US Army).   “Now you are using a term they are familiar with.”

2. Make contact with the local veterans employment representative to get assistance with your job search.

“Don’t wait until you have separated or retired to begin the job hunt, or wait until you are on terminal leave,” says Rosser.  “You need to begin all of these tasks a good eight to 12 months in advance of leaving the service so that you will be in a good position to start applying to actual jobs about 90 to 120 days out from your last military paycheck.”

3. Get involved with professional associations. 
Whether you are interested in going into the HR field (Ex. Society for Human Resource Management –eh hem, plug for SHRM!) or the field of journalism (Ex. Society for Professional Journalists), nearly every occupation has corresponding professional associations.  And, usually these professional associations have local chapters.  Find a chapter in your area, attend their meetings or events, and start building relationships with other folks in your profession.

4. Develop your Master Skills List and translate those skills into civilian terms.
“This is a list that should include everything you’ve done in the military,” says Rosser.  Going over your military performance reviews can help with this process, she says.  This list should include your occupational training, any collateral duties you performed, and any special projects you worked on.

To help translate your military work into civilian job terms, Rosser recommends using O*Net Online.  O*Net can give you several variations of civilian job titles that relate to your military experience, as well as show you the certifications required for the jobs, says Rosser.

Once you have assembled the master skills list, you now have material to help you identify two to four roles you might want to do as a civilian.  As you review all the roles you played in the military, she advises asking yourself this question: What kind of work were you doing when you felt you were in your element?  A time when the job came easily, and you were excited about the work you were doing.

Perhaps you were a military police officer, and the time you felt you were at the top of your game was when you spent a year as an instructor, teaching new recruits how to perform their police duties.  That should be a sign that rather than focusing only on applying for civilian police positions or security guard jobs, you should also look at roles that focus on developing and delivering training programs to adult learners.

5. Be ready for the salary question.

The Department of Defense (DoD) has a calculator that can help you compute what your military salary is worth in civilian terms, says Rosser.   Once you answer the questions and arrive at a number, remember that this number reflects the military’s total compensation package.  Make sure you are comparing apples to apples when discussing salary with a civilian recruiter.  “Recruiters often talk in terms of base salaries, whereas the number the Department of Defense calculator gave you is a total compensation target,” says Rosser.

Base salary + benefits = total compensation.  The recruiter may not be able to articulate exactly how much the benefits are worth, but he or she can usually quote a percentage, such as “benefits equal 30% of base salary”.  So, if the base is $50,000 and benefits are another 30%, the total compensation package is worth about $65,000, and that is the number to compare to the DoD calculator total.

Rosser is also a fan of Salary.com for its convenient listing of job titles, typical tasks and responsibilities and associated salaries. Should you call yourself a Training Coordinator or a Training Manager?  The site can help you distinguish the tasks each role performs so that you will know which title most appropriately reflects your level of experience, says Rosser.

6. Customize your resume.
Once you know the two to four types of jobs you would be happy performing,  you will want to craft your resumes around each of these positions.  “You truly need more than one resume,” says Rosser.  “Even after you’ve developed the general role-based resumes, be prepared to further customize them to apply to a specific role at a specific company. ”

Now that you’ve got a clear objective and have spent some time working on how best to showcase your skills and talents, it will be much easier for you to pursue your career goals with confidence.  “Don’t sell yourself short,” says Rosser.  Whether you’ve had four or 24 years of experience in the military, you have some great experience that you shouldn’t mind ranting and raving about!

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