5 Free Things You Can Do to Help Job-Seeking Veterans


We Americans really love our troops. And we are deeply thankful for all the military community does to make the world a safer place. Of course, we want to help new veterans and spouses find jobs in the civilian world. Done deal.

Except for one little thing.

Most of us are not hiring managers. We do not work in human resources. We don't have a banquet of jobs to lay before them. We don't have an extra six-figure salary just lying around that we can give away, no matter how deserving these veterans and spouses might be.

But would you believe there are so many things we can do to help job-seeking veterans and spouses that cost no money, no time and no direct access to HR? As the transition master coach for Military.com's Veteran Employment Project, I have identified five ways that are totally free that you can do to help a job-seeking veteran or spouse today.

1. Tell Them a Number

When active-duty military members transition into the civilian world, they have one great, big embarrassing problem: They don't know what anyone makes. They have some very bad ways they try to guess what their salary number should be, but that salary range is usually wrong. This often keeps them from getting a second interview.

You don't need to tell them what you make -- ever. But you can really help them by asking about their salary analysis. This is a great way of letting them know they need to do this research and that they are supposed to be asking. Try inquiring about:

  • What kind of salary analysis are you doing?
  • Has anyone talked to you about what your range should be in this area?
  • What are people telling you about salary?

2. Dispel the Cloud

Often when active-duty service members or recently retired veterans are asked about what kind of job they are looking for, they turn into a bunch of squids. (Stay with me here.)

Like squids, who defend themselves against predators by shooting a cloud of dark ink into the water, those transitioning out of the military will shoot a cloud of vague plans into the conversation.

Why? Because they are freaking out. These hyper-competent people are not used to being unsure. They don't tell you what kind of job they are looking for, because they honestly don't know what is out there.

Instead of looking weak, active-duty military will shoot a lot of words at you that don't mean anything, like, "I want to do something different."

As civilians, we usually take this as a sign they are not ready for the job hunt. We respond vaguely in kind. Please know: Vagueness is not kindness.

Instead, sweep the cloud away and ask another question, like, "Where do you and your family want to live after transition?" Veterans almost always have this answer. Then ask, "Do you intend to work in government or defense?" Or, "Are you interested in X industry? There are a lot of jobs in this area in X industry."

3. Give Them the Truth

We often try so hard to be nice to transitioning military and job-seeking spouses that we civilians are the ones who are super vague and unhelpful, especially if a lot of ink is being shot into the water.

Give yourself permission to tell job seekers the truth. They can't learn if they have to guess at everything. One way to deliver truths is to put it in form of a question like:

  • I want to give you some feedback about your approach. Are you in the mood to get it now?
  • May I tell you something? I really want to help.
  • You know what I wish someone had told me when I was getting out?

4. Tell Them Your (True) Story

People who served in the military who now work in the civilian sector are the most useful source of information for veterans. I find they are especially willing to tell their truth in the first two or three years following transition. The mistakes you made and the successes you found are relevant and insightful for other veterans. Don't sugarcoat.

5. Give Yourself Credit

We civilians don't think we have anything to offer about jobs with veterans or spouses, because we are not hiring and we do not know anyone who is. I bet only 2% of people a veteran talks to during transition is a hiring manager.

But that doesn't mean you don't have anything useful to say. When you run into a transitioning active-duty member or job-seeking military spouse in your network, know that you would not be in this conversation if you didn't have anything to contribute. You do. This is the invisible, unpredictable way that networking works. Go with it.

Transitioning veterans and job-seeking spouses appreciate the support of their fellow Americans. And they are even more thankful for all the pieces of the job-hunt puzzle you can help them collect along the way.

Jacey Eckhart is Military.com's transition master coach. She is a certified professional career coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Employment Project and on her website, SeniorMilitaryTransition.com. Reach her at Jacey.Eckhart@Monster.com.

Find Your Next Job Fast

Transitioning military, veterans and spouses may be qualified for the job, but they are missing the secrets of civilian hiring. Find out everything you need to know with our FREE master class series, including our next class. You can view previous classes in our video library. Questions for Jacey? Visit our Facebook page.

Story Continues