Job Search Tips for Veterans and Transitioning Military

​Last week, I was interviewed by Karen Hunter on SiriusXM Urban View about tips for veteran job seekers, in honor of Military Appreciation Month. Afterward, the responses from veterans in all corners of CONUS was overwhelming! That response has prompted this article.

Some context: I grew up in/around the military for the bulk of my life, and have worked on post and on base. Currently, I enjoy sharing monthly at our local SFL-TAP classes on how to leverage social media for your job search. At #HIREconf NYC this year, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel about military recruitment. 

What follows are my top suggestions for your transition from military service to civilian employment.

Your Resume

This is NOT anything like what you have to fill out for USAJOBS, where they require the number of hours worked, salary for each position, etc. What is the purpose of a first date? To get a second date. What is the purpose of the resume? To get the interview!

Recruiters are going to spend a whopping 6 seconds viewing your resume, so you need to capture their attention in the “top fold”. Please refer to my blogpost on called, “Before You Hit Apply For This Job”. It is a “how to” on formatting your resume.

I often see every duty station listed, and points that read like a job description. All that you need to do is to put the start date of when you went into the service, and the ETS date, or “present” if you are still on terminal leave or about to start. Then, in that one entry, only highlight the positions you held that are commensurate with the civilian position you are seeking. Do not put in each task performed. Just share about 3-5 bullet points of successes and achievements/accomplishments, and put them in the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format. Basically, what you did, how you did it, and the quantifiable result. Remember, you are not trying to sell yourself for the position, you are simply giving us tidbits to entice us to schedule the phone interview!

Another thing I see is the home address being put in the contact information line. Please protect you/your family and leave this out. We do not need to know where you are physically located at this juncture. Also, if you are stationed at Ft. Meade but are going to PCS to Austin, TX, put “Austin, TX” as your location on your resume. Most civilians do not know that your final move will be paid for, and you could be eliminated from consideration by an unknowledgeable recruiter who does not have a relo budget for that position. 

Additionally, do not list any jobs you had pre-military, unless they are pertinent to the position you are seeking. Most veteran resumes I have reviewed show a MOS that took them into a different direction from what transpired up until enlistment. If you entered as an officer, no need to put your pizza delivery jobs from high school!

The civilianization of your resume: have a civilian review your verbiage, or a recruiter trained in the art of deciphering military lingo. Do not use the word “ammunition” or “ammo”. State “supplies” or “inventory”. Do not use the word “deployed”. Say “overseas assignment”. Why? Although you cannot be legally discriminated against for your veteran status, you also cannot erase people’s internal biases. Neutralize any words that conjure up images of “war”. Why? Because the person looking at it may be seeing images in their mind of the last war movie they saw where armed military personnel shot innocents in a remote village. Seemingly all but gone are the days of “Proud to be an American”. Your resume needs to most probably get past a millennial whose parents did not serve in the military, and may not know what this entails, nor what it means. You are not hiding your service nor being ashamed of it. You are simply highlighting your experiences and skill sets in a way in which the reader can relate and understand.

Your LinkedIn Profile

Many have said to me that because their positions are in SIGINT or HUMINT or Cyber or they have poly clearances, they are not permitted to be on LinkedIn. All you need to do is look up some of your buddies and see that they are all on there! How to know what you can/cannot post up? Get your resume through pre-pub first, and then you will know what verbiage can be shared. A seasoned or well-trained recruiter knows how to “read between the lines” if they are recruiting in the intel community for federal contractors.


Your profile pic should not be of you in uniform. Why? You are auditioning for a civilian role, so your costume needs to match that role. LinkedIn profile photographers are fairly unanimous in stating that the best colors to wear are a white blouse or shirt, and navy blazer, with or without a tie, depending on the position sought. Do not be faced squarely toward the camera. Put one shoulder slightly in front, dip it just a bit, lean forward ever so slightly, and please SMILE FOR THE CAMERA! This is not your military ID card. So many LI photos look like mug shots. Companies want to hire people who look pleasant to work with, so project that positivity!

The Summary Section is the ONE place you can use the personal pronouns of I, me, and my. Do not simply iterate your skills and abilities. This is the place to shine! What problems do you love solving? What is it about the roles/responsibilities you are seeking that excite you most? Is it mission? Is it complex problems? Let your passions shine through so we know what enthuses you, and what you will be happiest doing. Cultural fit is just as important as matching skill sets. I know it has been instilled in you to not brag or to draw personal attention. This is not about “bragging”. It is about truthfully stating your stellar achievements. What seems like “no big deal” to you is actually impressive and needs to be clearly communicated.

Most of all, make sure that whatever is in your resume matches what you put on your LinkedIn profile! #truestory

Networking for the Next Job

It is well quoted that 72% of all jobs, industry-wide, are filled by networking and referral. You have spent the last 3 or 30 years networking almost exclusively with military personnel. So, how do you network for that next position?  Start by making a list of all the companies in your target city that have jobs that are of interest to you. See if you are connected to anyone in those companies. If not, are you 2nd connected? Then ask your shared connections if they are comfortable connecting you to that person. Invite them out for coffee. (Pay for the coffee!) If you have miles between you, schedule a Google Hangout, or phone call. Ask questions about the company, what they like about their positions, what are the challenges that company is tackling, how is the culture, and do they have opportunities for growth? Note: I did not say to ask them about how to get a job there, or to connect you with a specific hiring manager. This is important! This is what is called an informational interview. It is to glean information. When you find a position that rocks your socks, send your contact an email identifying the job title and number. Let this person know that you are going to submit your application online on Friday (it is now Tuesday), but if they have an employee referral program and he/she is comfortable referring you, the resume and cover letter are attached. If not, you will be submitting the application online. No harm, no foul.

These cover the most pertinent questions/comments I received. If there are additional questions you would like to see covered, let me know! Send me a connection request. And, thank you for your service. Not just a cultural saying, but stated with the sincerest of sentiments. #Respect #Admiration #Veterans #JobSearchTips #MilitaryTransition