Let's Stop Pretending: What Makes Me Crazy About Veteran Employment

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Let's Pretend is not a game military veterans or spouses like playing -- especially when it comes to the job hunt. We pride ourselves on being authentic, honest, straight players who make a powerful addition to any team, dammit.

We go boldly into the transition world expecting to be taken up as welcome members of the veteran-friendly world. And then it gets weird out there.

For new veterans, the way things are supposed to work, and the way things actually work, seem to be totally different. The word "trippin'" may come to mind.

That is why at the Veteran Employment Project, we pride ourselves on helping you identify the unspoken rules so that you can get the best possible start on your next career. But to do that, we need to stop pretending certain things are true, even if we really, really want them to be true. So ...

Let's Stop Pretending There Are Not Enough Qualified Candidates.

In the 2023 State of the Workplace Study from the Society for Human Resource Management, 72% of human resource professionals surveyed said that the greatest challenge to finding talent was a lack of well-qualified candidates. They pretty much say this every year because job listings are notoriously over-exacting.

This would be fine if hiring managers had a bunch of internal candidates lined up and ready to go. They don't. That is why the job hangs out there.

As a hiring manager, the way around this problem is to identify which skills can be taught quickly -- in 4-6 weeks. Hire a veteran to adapt quickly.

As a veteran, the way to get around the inflated job listing is through your network. Who do you know at that company? More importantly, what kind of veteran hiring program do they already have? Start with a real person, then spend the time it takes to demonstrate how your experience closely matches requirements.

Let's Stop Pretending "Transferable" Skills Get Veterans Hired.

Google "veteran employment" and "transferable skills." You will find about 42 million results. We tell veterans all the time that skills like leadership, effective communication, and collaboration will get them a job. They won't.

No one ever got a job based on their transferable skills. To get hired, you need hard skills like full stack web development, aircraft maintenance, chemical analysis, welding, data mining, user interface design, project management, writing, civil engineering, etc.

As a veteran, resolve to commit to translating your military hard skills into civilian hard skills. Learn how in our FREE Blast Start Resume master class.

Let's Stop Pretending Everyone Can Participate in SkillBridge.

If you have ever attended one of our transition master classes, you know that I think the DoD SkillBridge program (and the accompanying internships for military members) is one of the greatest innovations ever. The hiring rates of these programs, like the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship, is astronomical -- as high as 92% of participants get a job offer.

Yet not every active-duty military member who is qualified to participate in the program gets permission from their command to take part. If your unit is deployed, or if you are in a position that is already undermanned, or if you are the person who is carrying most of the responsibility for a crucial function, the command is going to say no to SkillBridge. Not fair but true.

If you are a commander, I urge you to read this open letter from Hire Military. If you are a service member, I urge you to try again. This time, make a more complete professional request, especially if you were winging it the first time. Think of it as your first interview for the job.

Let's Stop Pretending the Phone Interview Is Not an Interview.

"It wasn't a real interview," a transitioning Air Force member told me. "It was just a phone thing. I think I did fine."

Ahem. In the post-COVID world, that is the real interview even if it is not with a hiring manager. So often, the human resources sourcer or recruiter is calling to make the first cut and see whether you qualify for the job.

If you are the interviewer talking to a military member, tell them straight-up the purpose of this interview. You will get a better result. If you are the veteran, resolve that you will treat every phone call, coffee date and random conversation about your next job as the interview. Because it is.

Let's Stop Pretending Transition Is Better if You Do It Alone.

In military culture, we inadvertently teach people not to ask questions. We teach people to figure it out on their own. We privilege those iconoclasts who do it alone.

That may be the right way to go in the military. It is not the way to go in the civilian job hunt. There are no extra-credit points (or signing bonuses) for people who try to figure out everything on their own.

There are so many subtleties in a job hunt that no person could figure them out alone. People who take part in private career coaching, programs from veteran service organizations and our own great Veteran Employment Project master classes can save themselves months of frustration. Sometimes what you really need is a little feedback to get on the right path. And there are so many people who want to help you.

Understanding how the job hunt really works and adapting your behavior to that reality can make your job search so much more effective. And a lot less psychedelic all around.

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.


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