Jeff McMillan, Chief Data & Analytics Officer at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management
Over my years of advising veterans transitioning from military service to civilian workplaces, I’ve found that for many, the biggest obstacle has nothing to do with their qualifications or abilities–it’s not knowing how to navigate the process of finding a job.
Knowing the basic steps and preparing for each one can help you put your best foot forward each time you submit an application or walk into an interview.
1. Write an impeccable resume
Your resume should communicate two kinds of information: 1) The type of role you are looking for and 2) How your unique experience and skills make you a strong candidate. When writing a resume, keep the following tips in mind:
● State the type of role you are looking for and a summary of your skills upfront. These first lines may be all a hiring manager reads, so make them concise and impactful.
● Highlight your experience and education, including specific skills and accomplishments that are relevant to the job for which you are applying.
● Avoid military jargon – Most civilians will not understand military acronyms and abbreviations, or even the names of specific units.
● Proofread thoroughly for spelling or grammatical errors.
2. Network early and often
Networking is the act of establishing mutually beneficial professional relationships. Like many veterans, I found the idea of networking to be strange and foreign at first. Military relationships are largely pre-determined according to the chain of command. But outside the military, building your professional network is up to you. Beyond finding a job, networking is about forging new relationships with people who can help you learn and grow. Meeting people from a wide variety of professional backgrounds helps you chart your own course, and each conversation will improve your ability to deliver a strong, compelling message about your skills and experience.
To get started, reach out to everyone you know who works in a field that interests you, especially other veterans–most enjoy speaking with transitioning vets. In recent years, a whole new generation of veterans’ groups has emerged and is modernizing engagement and support through community activism, training programs, and social engagement. I also recommend attending as many veteran-focused career fairs as you can. Numerous organizations as well as some universities and companies host events focused on educating veterans all around the U.S.
Social media is also a great way to connect with people you know (or want to know). Put together a clear and concise profile (refer to your resume) and don’t be afraid to “advertise” what you are looking for.
3. Interview with confidence and humility
Interviews are probably the most important part of the job search, and also an area where most military personnel have significant room for improvement (at first). Here are a few things to keep in mind as you navigate your first few interviews:
● Do your homework in advance – Familiarize yourself with the job description and read up on the company’s products and services, leadership, and any recent news or announcements.
● Communicate clearly and concisely why you are right for the role – Refer back to the original work you did around identifying your skills and interests.
● Practice – Ask members of your network to critique your answers to common interview questions, and go on as many interviews as possible for practice.
● Dress for the job – If you are unsure what to wear to an interview, ask what the normal dress code for the office is. When in doubt, err on the side of more professional than casual.
● Don’t use “sir” or “ma’am” – This can come off as overly formal or even intimidating in a corporate setting.
● Be confident and humble – Most people will admire you for your service, but there is also a perception that ex-military men and women can be overly intense and aggressive. Make sure to display humility and willingness to work with others.
● Send a thank-you note – Within 24 hours of the interview, send every person you spoke with a note thanking them for their time and reiterating your interest in the position.
● Don’t get discouraged – Keep in mind that interviewers are also talking with other candidates, and someone else may be more qualified for the role. Focus on treating each interview as a learning experience, whether or not you receive an offer.
Once you understand the process, job hunting essentially becomes a probability exercise: the more jobs you apply for, the more interviews you will get. And the more interviews you do, the more likely you are to be offered a job. Be persistent in expanding your network, identifying new opportunities, and practicing your job-seeking skills, and job offers will follow.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management or its affiliates. All opinions are subject to change without notice.
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