Is it officially crunch time in your job hunt? I know this is not what you planned. You were hoping to have a job lined up before you left the military -- maybe even have three or four employers in a bidding war so you could take a nice vacation before you get to work.
Instead, you have just a few weeks left before you leave the Navy, and you can't even get an interview. Or maybe you left the Army or Air Force a month ago and you have interviewed at a couple of places, but there has been no job offer. Perhaps your terminal leave is coming to an end, there is no job in sight and your credit cards are trembling in fear.
You know what I call that? Pretty much normal. As the transition master coach for Military.com's Veteran Employment Project, I can tell you the research says only one in four enlisted military members has a job waiting for them after their military service. And only about one-half of commissioned officers reported they had a job lined up before they used up their terminal leave.
So what do you do if you aren't one of the lucky ones with a civilian job?
Crunch time is the best time to organize your day around doing the activities that are most likely to result in employment. These are the things I see transitioning service members do that are most likely to result in a job offer.
1. Radically reject guilt, fear and blame.
One of the most important things you can do for your job hunt is to stop revisiting what you woulda, shoulda or coulda done. I don't care what you did or did not do for your job hunt in the past. That kind of guilt does not help. Instead, it makes you avoid all the things you need to do for your job hunt. Go ahead and reject all that nonsense, and resolve to follow the most effective behaviors now.
2. Pick a time like a religion.
I know you have heard people say that you should work at getting a job like it was your job. People who adopt that idea tend to spend eight hours a day at their computer going down rabbit holes on the internet, which is just another way of avoiding the job hunt.
Instead, pick a two-hour window every day and treat it like a religion. No matter what happens, you quiet your mind and go to a productive place (your desk, a coffee shop, the front seat of your truck) and do the kind of work that is most likely to result in getting a job. Pick a time of day where you are most positive, most energetic and most likely to finish something, and don't let anything interrupt you.
3. Network like Ted Lasso.
Your job will not come from applying online. In fact, 85% of candidates get their jobs through networking. This is especially true for more experienced workers and those expecting a higher paycheck. I admit veterans have their reasons to hate networking, but no one is asking you to network like a dirtbag.
Instead, network like you are a total Ted Lasso, the kind of person who is going to show up, work hard and help people solve problems while giving them cookies. Know that the people in your network are probably not aware that you are still looking for a job.
Start by looking at all your connections on LinkedIn and identify 25 past work friends and colleagues you liked who liked you. Contact each of them individually to set up a video call or a breakfast or coffee. Adopt a tracking system so you remember whom you talked to, when and what they suggested. Resolve to talk to at least five people per week.
4. Take a transition master class like it is FREE.
Your strategy for finding a job at this stage is different, depending on your career level. Take one of our FREE transition master classes for young enlisted, junior officers, mid-career pros, senior leaders or spouses, as well as our class on how to get a government job.
5. Treat job sites like radiation.
It seems logical that spending a lot of time looking at job listings and applying to jobs you "could" do would lead to accepting job offers. That just is not true. The Department of Labor collects info for 790 possible occupations, but that doesn't mean all of them are things you should do.
Again, your job is going to come from your network. Limit your exposure to job sites like they are giving off radiation. Set up alerts using job titles or keywords so the jobs you want will show up in your inbox.
6. Apply like the job is on fire.
One advantage to having the alerts set up is that you are among the first to get a notice of a new job listing. Some jobs close after they have a certain number of applicants. Recruiters often have time to go through only the top of their applicants and never even look at the ones who apply last.
Increase your chances by applying within 24 hours of seeing the job. To make sure you are applying frequently enough to the right jobs, apply to only two jobs per week.
7. Read the job listing like Nicolas Cage.
It drives recruiters crazy when people apply for jobs for which they are not at all qualified. It wastes everyone's time, especially yours. So treat a job listing like you are starring in a Nicolas Cage movie and you have to decipher a treasure map. Read it closely, out loud, line by line. If you do not have 70% of the desired qualifications, move on to something for which you are more qualified.
8. Collect keywords like they are magically delicious.
The biggest problem I see among transitioning military is that they use a totally different vocabulary than civilian hiring managers -- even when they are talking about exactly the same things. While it would be nice if recruiters, job sourcers and talent acquisitions professionals would learn your terminology, they can't and they don't.
All the people you talk to in your network are dropping keywords in your path like blue stars, green clover and yellow diamonds. These are words like clients, customers, cross-functional teams, CRM (customer relationship management tool), etc. Pick them up and add them to a list on your phone. Bonus points if you use them to describe the work you did in the military.
You also can collect keywords from job listings. Circle the nouns and verbs they use to describe the job and then translate your military experience into those keywords. You can learn a trick to doing this easier in our FREE Reverse Resume Transition Master Class. This collection of keywords for things you can do often leads right to a job.
9. Study like this is a foreign country.
Active-duty service can take up all the brain cells in your head. Now that you are out, find some good industry newsletters to steep yourself in a new culture. You are already collecting keywords. Now set yourself to understanding the problems of the leaders of your industry. It is never time wasted because when you get a job in an industry, you will always be doing the homework.
10. Bring in a ringer.
If you are feeling the crunch, take that as a sign that you have done all you can do on your own. Swallow your pride like it is covered in powdered sugar, and get professional eyes on your resume. Work with a coach like me on your interview and negotiation techniques. Do a free 30 mentors in 30 days challenge on Veterati. At this stage, don't be alone with your job hunt.
11. Level up your skills like a new grad.
Don't let uncertainty about your timeline and job offers stop you from taking a class or getting a certification. In addition to teaching a skill, those classes put you in touch with knowledgeable instructors, make you look a little more civilian, and give you something to talk about when people ask what you have been doing. I like Salesforce for Military and Onward to Opportunity at this stage.
12. Protect your mental health.
After working for most of your adult life, the experience of going jobless can be really disconcerting for military members. Research shows that the stress of being unemployed or underemployed starts to mount up at the 10- to 12-week mark. Put that on your calendar as a danger zone.
On the job hunt, mood is everything. People can sense your stress. Go ahead and acknowledge that stress as a natural part of the military transition. Let it motivate you to mindfully adopt all those useful behaviors to ward off depression, such as eating healthily, taking walks and meeting with others.
13. Evaluate your tactics.
Every Friday, sit down and evaluate what you have done for your job hunt and where it has led. Did you stick to a five day a week habit? Did you stay to complete tasks, or did you avoid the process by surfing the web or inventing errands? What are you saying to people that seems to be getting traction? What do you plan to never say again?
When you are in crunch time on the job hunt, the wait seems like it is going to take forever. If you apply just a little structure to the hunt, things will go faster, and you will be on your way to your next high-impact job.
You already know the basics of getting a job in the civilian world: resume, job listings, wear-a-tie, send-a-thank-you. But do you know the strategies that help someone with your level of military job experience get the right job faster? Our Master Classes offer strategies, skills and secrets designed just for you. Best of all, they're FREE. Learn more now.
-- 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.