In this series of emails, Will Leineweber, our head Career Coach, shares his best advice on how to find, apply for, and land a great civilian job. If you haven't already, sign up to get the tips via email (we'll send you the next email in the series every other day).
- Welcome To Transition 101
- The Biggest Transition Mistakes
- Get Your Resume Right
- Use LinkedIn The Right Way
- Search And Apply For Jobs
- Build A Civilian Network
- What To Do At Job Fairs
- Interview Like A Pro
- What Constitutes A Job Offer?
- Keep Up The Good Work
Email 1: Welcome To Transition 101
Congratulations on taking the first step to finding a great civilian job.
My name is Will Leineweber, and I head up the Career Coaches at Hirepurpose. The advice I’m sharing with you comes from the standpoint of someone who has transitioned off active duty, recruited for a lot of companies, interviewed, and hired other vets.
Every week I’ll send you honest, straightforward advice based on my personal experiences and the good and bad things my team has seen working with transitioning service members.
Email 2: The Biggest Transition Mistakes
Before getting into the “transition dos,” let’s start with the “transition don’ts.”
There are a lot of factors involved in the job hunt/transition, many of which you can’t control. It makes sense to pay attention to those factors that can help or hurt you and that you actually have direct control over.
Email 3: Get Your Resume Right
There’s no such thing as a perfect resume. If you ask 50 different recruiters what they want to see, you’ll likely get 50 different answers.
Here are examples of six great military-to-civilian resumes where we break down what works well.
While there’s no “right” way, there are plenty of wrong ways. Here are a few industry standards you will need to follow to create a solid resume:
- DO save your resume as a Microsoft Word or PDF document
- DO include a professional-sounding (and working) email address
- DO use action verbs to describe your experiences (ex. “Led a team…” “Managed $10M in equipment…”)
- DO reference quantifiable success. Talk about the things that you did that saved money, improved programs, turned failures around, etc.
- DO keep it to one page, if possible, and definitely not more than two pages
- DO include a three-sentence summary about yourself below the address block
- Watch this 30-second video on resume mistakes to avoid
- Read resume advice from 5 hiring managers
- Read 8 great resume tips
- Update your resume (don't forget, you can start with one of our examples)
Email 4: Use LinkedIn The Right Way
If you’ve gone through a TAP or ACAP class at this point, you’ve probably been asked to create a LinkedIn profile. That’s a great start, but having a basic LinkedIn profile isn’t enough.
LinkedIn is a goldmine for making connections in the civilian sector. Start using it to your advantage. Recruiters use LinkedIn heavily to find talent, and you never know when your dream opportunity could come knocking.
A few tips:
- Keep it brief: Your profile should look like a smaller, more succinct version of your resume. Give an outline of where you’ve been and what you can do.
- Use keywords: If you’re from a technical background, be sure to include the terms that relate to your technical skills and certifications. Recruiters will often conduct a keyword search like “veteran+SAP+logistics” or “veteran+electronics+component level.”
- Look professional: Include a picture of your face from the neck up. It doesn’t need to be a big production — you can take a snap with your phone wearing a collared shirt and call it a day. Many people like to use their official military portraits, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but wearing a collared shirt will help recruiters start seeing you as a potential employee.
- Be a joiner: Join the larger veteran talent groups because recruiters will often go there to find talent.
- Read these tools and tips for navigating LinkedIn
- Update your LinkedIn profile
- Join five LinkedIn groups that are veteran, industry, or function-focused
- Make 25 "connections" on LinkedIn — preferably friends or family who work in the civilian sector
Email 5: Search And Apply For Jobs
Your resume is solid, and your LinkedIn profile looks professional. Now you’re ready to put yourself out there.
Where to start?
Sign up for a few job sites, read through job listings, and ask yourself:
- What jobs do I want to do?
- Where are they located (regional or national)?
- Do they require specific skills or training?
That last question is tricky to answer. Sometimes jobs will include “requirements” that aren’t really requirements. For example, a company may be willing to overlook a lack of industry experience if you have leadership experience that makes up for it. It’s important to be realistic, but be careful not to limit yourself.
If you’re on the fence about your qualifications, but think you can make a good case for having the skills, go for it and apply.
- Worst-case scenario: You don’t hear back. If that happens a lot, you may need to rethink your approach.
- Best-case scenario: You get an interview or the company recommends you for a more appropriate role.
When should you start applying?
About three months before your date of availability.
How often should you apply?
Every time you see a job that looks good to you.
About 5% of applications lead to an interview, so it’s a bit of a numbers game. This is largely due to applicant tracking systems (more on them here).
When you apply for a job on Hirepurpose, we give you extra exposure; if you confirm that you’ve completed an application, we follow up directly with the company. But even then, it’s important to keep your options open and apply often.
Be careful, though. If you apply to 20+ jobs openings at the same company, that’s a red flag. It’s better to apply to a few jobs across many companies.
- Sign up for at least three job sites
- Identify 10 companies you could see yourself working for
- Identify 3-5 roles you could see yourself in within each company
Email 6: Build A Civilian Network
Some people enjoy the idea of “networking.” I am not one of these people.
But just like there are benefits to eating your vegetables, networking is good for you. In fact, networking is probably the most important part of the civilian job search and will likely be your best entry into the companies you’ve identified.
It doesn’t have to be awkward or uncomfortable. Here’s a safe strategy to build your network from scratch:
- Create a list of people in your life who aren’t in the military. Even if you only have a handful of close contacts in the civilian sector — relatives, childhood friends, government contractors you’ve worked with — a handful is a good place to start.
- Reach out to them. Let these people know that you’ll be transitioning. (This article on 5 Steps for Writing Effective Emails can help you with the wording). See if they’ll meet you for coffee or have a quick phone conversation. Tell them what you’re looking for, and ask if they can connect you to anyone in their network.
- Keep using LinkedIn. If you are aware of a job or industry or particular company that captures your interest, look at profile of the employees of that company. If you find a military program manager, or maybe another manager who is a vet, reach out to them and let them know you’re interested. Anytime you meet a recruiter or business professional and you get their card, reach out on LinkedIn. Remember: craft a short, personal message when you are asking to connect with someone. Proofread it and hit send.
- Read why curiosity is key to maximizing your networking potential
- Watch Think Beyond Your MOS
- Watch 9 Months Before Your Separation
- Contact five civilian friends or family members, preferably those who work in industries that you’re interested in
Email 7: What To Do At Job Fairs
Job fairs are a great place to meet face to face with employers. The two most important things to remember: Be prepared and be polite. Also,
- Do your homework. Research the companies that will be there, especially the ones you think you’ll want to talk with.
- Show up with your resume. Employers will see that you’re serious about your search. It also gives them a way to follow up with you afterwards.
- Be friendly and ask good questions. Don’t ever start the conversation with “What can you do for me?” If you don’t know what company does, it’s always safe to say: “Hi, I’m Will, nice to meet you. Can you tell me a little about what you are looking for today?”
Here’s a list of our upcoming base events. Be sure to stop in and meet our team when we’re in the area.
- Read Getting The Most Out Of Military Job Fairs
- Read 6 Rules To Getting The Most Out Of Your Networking Opportunities
- Attend at least one job fair on or off base
Email 8: Interview Like A Pro
Getting asked to interview: A moment of joy (you’ve made it this far!) followed by a moment of realization (you actually need to interview…)
Here’s what to do.
Before the interview, find out:
- What kind of interview will it be? Phone or face to face? Behavioral or technical?
- Who will you be interviewing with? How many people? What are their roles? Use LinkedIn to learn more about their careers and their current roles in the company.
- Where and when will it be? Give yourself plenty of time to get there.
During the interview:
- Dress appropriately. What’s “appropriate”? I cover that in this quick video.
- Ask smart questions. They’re finding out whether they want to hire you, but you should also be finding out if you want to work there.
- Make eye contact (if in person) and smile (whether you’re in person or on the phone).
After the interview:
- Send a thank you message. Use the same medium the company use to reach out to you (email or phone typically).
- Watch these 30-second videos on interviewing
- Read up on smart questions you should ask during a job interview
- Read Crafting The Perfect Follow-Up Response To A Job Interview
- Research these 6 online resources to get company intel before an interview
Email 9: What Constitutes A Job Offer?
This week's email is a short (but important) one.
The term "job offer" gets thrown around a lot, and I've found there can be some confusion about it's meaning.
As this week's action step, watch this 30-second video that explains what a job offer is — and what it isn't.
Email 10: Keep Up The Good Work
The transition from active duty military to workforce is the hardest transition you’ll go through. You’re learning everything for the first time and experimenting with different strategies. After you find a civilian job, and you do well in that job, future transitions into different jobs and companies will get easier.
On average, how long does it take to find a job?
Remember, it’s normal for every 100 applications, only 5 will get asked to interview. Those are tight odds. However, if you apply to a job through Hirepurpose, you can use our application confirmation tool, and we’ll send your information directly to the employer. Just getting a human to look at your information is a battle in today’s job market, and this process alters the odds significantly.
What if you're not hearing back?
If you’ve been aggressive in your search, took our advice, and still don’t have any offers after a few months, reconsider the restrictions you’ve placed on yourself (job location, industry, and function).
If you’re tied to one location, now is the time to expand your search. Remember, companies don’t exist to give you a job. They exist to make money, so you'll need to go where they are.
We're here to help.
If you haven’t already, sign up for Hirepurpose to speak with a career coach. We're real people who can help you recalibrate and target your search.
- Watch this 30-second video Don’t Get Discouraged
- Get some inspiration from a few people who’ve made the transition
- Sign up for Hirepurpose and talk with a career coach
Don’t wait to start planning your transition.
You may have heard that finding a job is easy given your military background. Unfortunately, not everyone understands the value of military talent or how your skills will translate for their company. It’s true that you belong to a special group, but having a DD-214 is not a silver bullet. You need to be proactive and take charge of your future.
Think about the time you spent in basic training — those are the kind of man hours it takes to learn new skills. Conducting an effective job search is a skill.
Don’t plant roots.
The more open you are in terms of geographical location, the more job opportunities you’ll find. Don’t buy a house or set roots before you find a job if you can avoid it.
- Watch these 30-second videos on timing your transition and preparing your family
- Read advice on how to nail your transition
- Read how messing up your military transition can cost you big time