In today’s job market, employers are adding jobs at an impressive rate, and the overall corporate commitment to hiring veterans is greater than ever. Finding the first post-military job is not the biggest challenge. However, finding the right career path and employer is proving to be a bigger obstacle. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hiring our Heroes program reports that 50% of veterans left their first post-military job within the first year. What that tells us is that it is important for service members to avoid taking the first job available without considering the best fit for their talents and long-term career objectives.
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We were all trained in the military to assess the situation and clearly understand the mission. Using a similar approach is key to a rewarding, long-term career — evaluating all the opportunities available, then carefully selecting a company, role and environment that will be conducive to your success. Here are a few tips to keep in mind before applying for and accepting your next position.
- Identify career objectives – When you joined the service you had several objectives like serving your country, getting job skills and training, paying for college, traveling the world, etc. What are your new objectives in your civilian career transition? What are the most important things you want the first role to lead to? Where do you want to be in 3-5 years? Similar to understanding the mission, having a clear understanding of what is most important to you is one of the most critical aspects of being able to find the best career opportunity.
Conduct a self-evaluation and assessment – At this stage in your life you need to be aware of your talents, skills and best qualities. Veterans share common traits, but the military is the most diverse workforce in the country. Employers, however, often make the mistake of stereotyping all military veterans to have the same talents.
Think about the roles that you excelled at in the military. What were the requirements of those jobs? What did you like best about those roles? What talents or strengths were consistently recognized by your supervisors? Equally important is understanding your weaknesses or roles in which you struggled. What areas of improvement were identified in your performance reviews? Having a clear understanding of your strengths and weaknesses will help you identify the right civilian career path and transition roles.
Get experienced advice – There are several veteran transition programs that can help you make a smooth transition into your civilian career. One mentor organization to consider is American Corporate Partners. It provides mentoring for veterans who have recently returned from active duty. At Wells Fargo, nearly 100 corporate leaders are mentoring veterans at any given time. This type of advice can be invaluable in trying to find the right career path and evaluating potential job opportunities.
Take time to research programs available at companies you’re considering, such as:
- Transition programs: Many companies offer multi-week internship programs that provide an opportunity for veterans to understand the day-to-day responsibilities of a regular employee, deepen his or her professional experience, network by learning on the job, and participate in special training opportunities.
- Apprenticeships: Some companies offer training programs from the Department of Labor that are structured, experiential training programs, which result in skills certification for applicants who don’t initially meet required qualifications for the non-apprentice equivalent role.
- Veterans leadership programs offer employees who self-identify as veterans the opportunity to understand, reclaim and embrace the strength and competencies that may have challenged them in corporate life and help them bridge the gap while retaining their differences and values.
Research your potential employer’s culture - One of the biggest reasons veterans leave an employer is the feeling that they do not "fit in" or identify with the company. Research the cultures of companies in your chosen career path. Go to their websites or look at the recruiting information about how they market themselves. Read the vision and values statements. How do they talk about customers, products and services? How do they value employees? Does the company support veterans? Does it have an Employee Resource Group for veterans? What type of training and onboarding program does it offer new employees?
This is a great time to leverage social media, veteran’s networks and other industry associations. Most people want to help veterans and will provide very valuable insight to the culture, work environment, training and development, promotion and compensation practices. Asking a current employee (especially a fellow veteran) about what it is really like to work at the company is a critical step of intelligence gathering in this process.
- Think past your first post-military job. Where will this job take you in your long-term career objectives? A starting role with a company that has a good veteran community, solid investment in training/development programs and a meritocracy around promotions is far more valuable than a higher salary at a company that does not have these critical elements. Corporate America has vast differences in the training investment and promotion/pay practices than that of the military. This area is the greatest learning curve for veterans leaving the military.
This is really a strong job market for veterans transitioning into civilian employment. Your mission in leaving the military is to find job opportunities that will lead to a successful long-term civilian career. Using a disciplined approach of aligning the job opportunities with your talents will allow you to determine the right career path and carefully evaluate job opportunities.
Sponsored: Wells Fargo supports veterans transitioning from military service with a variety of job options, resources, educational information and career guidance. Learn more.