The skills and experience you gained as a service member make you a great employee. Your leadership experience, team-building skills and results-oriented determination are highly sought after skills in the civilian sector. The challenge is figuring out how to communicate this important information concisely and in terms an employer can understand.
Learning how to clearly communicate your background, training, experience and level of responsibility to a potential employer in language the employer understands is the critical first step to moving into civilian workforce. To assist in this process, veterans can access online tools that provide a "skills translator" and information on various jobs and industries. Veterans can research their dream careers or find a civilian career similar to their previous military job.
Websites that can assist with skills translation include:
An interview can be stressful, but with some preparation beforehand, you can confidently and concisely communicate your military training, education, experience and leadership to a prospective employer. The following advice lays a basic foundation for your preparation. Remember, the more time you invest, the better prepared and more relaxed you will be.
Conduct research on the business and the people you will meet prior to the interview.
Research which civilian careers are most suited to you based on your military experiences and training. Be prepared to discuss how many people you led, the various duties you were responsible for in addition to your primary job and quantify the improvements you made.
Employers want to understand STAR (situation, task, action and result). Here are some examples:
I worked as an Army Signal officer, which means I was a mid-level manager providing services similar to that of AT&T and Comcast in war zones or remote areas of the world.
I procured approximately $4.2 million in telecommunications equipment for 10,000 Iraqi National Guard soldiers and trained them on how to use this equipment during war time operations.
I supervised 30 soldiers implementing and managing a digital and voice network for 20,000 users in a heavily wooded area with no pre-existing IT or telecommunications infrastructure.
I conducted and evaluated a 30-day training exercise preparing 462 personnel deploying to Kosovo and resulting in a readiness rating of 90% - a 15 percent increase over the previous year.
Practice interviewing. You may even want to make a video of yourself to get an idea of how you sound and look during the interview.
Anticipate what questions the employer might ask. The following are some common questions you may encounter:
Tell me about yourself. (Keep the answer job- or skill-related. Use it as an opportunity to show what makes you a good candidate for the job.)
What do you know about the type of work we do? (This is your chance to tell what you know from the research you completed.)
What is your weakness? (Always make this a positive answer. For example, "My spelling is not always perfect, so I always use a spell checker.")
What are your strengths? (Describe your skills in a way that will show you as a desirable employee for the company.)
Why did you leave your last job? (Answer with a positive statement. Try not to say: "I was fired," "terminated," "quit," "had no babysitter," or "couldn't get along with coworkers or supervisor." However, you can say: "new job," "contract ended," "seasonal," "temporary," "career change," "returned to school," or "relocated.")
Why have you been unemployed for such a long time? (Tell the truth. Emphasize that you were looking for a good company where you can settle and make a contribution.)
Why should we hire you? (Make a positive statement, such as "I would like the opportunity to work with you and believe that I can do the work." Restate some of your skills and experiences that match the job description.)
Do you have references? (It is most important that you contact your references ahead of time and have their name, current address and telephone numbers.)
Go alone. Do not take children or friends.
Pay attention to your body language. Greet the employer with a firm handshake, make frequent eye contact, smile, be polite and try to relax.
Listen carefully to the questions asked, and ask the interviewer to restate a question if you are confused.
Answer questions as directly as possible. Be upbeat, and make positive statements.
Remember, an interview is a two-way street. The hiring manager invited you to interview because he or she believes you have the skills and experience to do the job. The interview is an opportunity for both of you to determine if you are the right match for the position.
Bring extra copies of your resume and any other materials requested, along with a list of telephone numbers and addresses of your references.
At the end of the formal interview the employer will ask if you have any questions. This is your opportunity to learn more about the position and the organization, as well as show that you have done your homework. Some basic questions to ask include:
Who would supervise me?
When are you going to make a hiring decision?
What are the opportunities for advancement?
What kind of training is provided or available?
Is there a dress code?
You might also want to know:
What is it you want me to get accomplished in the first six months - first year - in the position?
What traits are you looking for in the person who will fill this position?
What do you enjoy most about working here?
At the end of the interview:
Thank the interviewers for their time.
Shake hands in closing.
Request a business card, and send thank you notes addressed to the interviewers.
Being able to convey what you did in the military in language civilians understand will help you land your next job. Keeping in mind your job, responsibilities and additional duties in the military, research civilian career fields that are similar to what you did in the military. Then you can make illustrative comparisons and draw analogies between your military experience and the civilian job you want.
Using any number of online resume builders, you can put together a strong resume and get your job search off to a positive start. A few websites you may find helpful are:
Sixteen Michigan Works! agencies oversee local Michigan Works! Service Centers, where job seekers and employers can access services. Job seekers can get help with evaluating strengths and skills, creating or updating resumes and sharpening interview skills.