We’re trained to take on any challenge through any terrain and any climate. From the scorching suns of the Middle East to the pelting rains of the Pacific, veterans have stood tall in compromising situations. It doesn’t matter if you were Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, or Coast Guard, we all walked a fine path in service to our country. Yet with our noble accomplishments behind us, many have struggled to find our footing in a frontier of new challenges ahead: joining the professional workforce.
Now don’t get me wrong, there have been many programs to implement veterans into civilian employment. Walmart and many other corporate sponsors have given veterans the first choice. They see the value in our head strong persistence, they admire our physical capability. Many of us have become excellent additions to our policemen and firemen. Some are teachers and others are postal workers or personal trainers. And a vast majority have transitioned into maintenance workers (including myself) or security. While these are respectable positions, it’s important for veterans to realize that a career does not end when they leave duty, but rather begins again.
Knowing is Half the Battle
For those recently discharged or drilling reserves out in the workforce, you may have assessed the situation at hand. Employment is a battle against your civilian counterparts with nearly a decade or two in the field or recent graduates armed with a four-year degree and connections through school counselors or internships. And while you have the support and respect of a hardened Master Sergeant or 1st Lieutenant, it’s still an uphill battle establishing yourself in the workforce. The good news is an uphill battle is what we train for.
First and foremost, arm yourself with knowledge. The government has invested much into your training, from rifle assembly to climate survey to intricate radar systems troubleshooting. You have been schooled and trained under grueling circumstances. You are entrusted with a world of knowledge, and it shouldn’t stop there. Out in the civilian realm, an education is key.
It shouldn’t matter what you do when you recently separate, but what else are you doing. If a blue-collar job sustains you and your family as you attend school at night or online, so be it. The important matter is that you arm yourself with as much intel to move up professionally in your career. It took me nearly ten years to earn my four year degree, but I’m glad I did. Soon afterward I went corporate and have enjoyed it ever since.
Dress Like Your Life Depends Upon It
You wouldn’t step outside the wire without your flak and Kevlar. The same principle applies to the professional workforce. You wouldn’t believe how many close veteran friends I have that don’t own a complete suit or any at all. A suit isn’t a luxury, but an investment. Though the price tag may hurt a bit, take a dive and jump right into one, or pay it off slowly.
Notice the feel and fit in a full body mirror. After all, you spent years dedicated to the craft of prepping your uniform for surprise inspections, so you’ve mastered the art of attention to detail. Such a skillset is crucial for those first interviews, picture I.D.’s, and even luncheons with the VP.
Find Your Network
Lastly, “It’s not what you know, but who you know” still holds true. Utilize social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook to find groups and causes you support, and be actively involved. Understanding the importance of such sites helps you as one become acquainted with many.
It’s certainly challenging to jump right into a career in which you have no prior dealings with. Even out of college, unless you had the opportunity to intern, which may have been unlikely considering your active duty or restrictive day job to support your education, the path towards a professional career will be a slow start. Your resume may be impressive but without prior experience it’ll be passed over. If you acquire insight of a company’s inner circle then you’re already set to join their ranks. Think of it as a recon, you’re gathering intel before making calculated movements.