Nearly 50% of veterans left their first post-military job within 12 months, according to a job retention survey from the Institute of Veterans and Military Families. A lack of opportunities to apply their skills and abilities was cited as the most common reason in their transition to civilian life.
Approximately 200,000 service members transition out of the military every year, making the adjustment to civilian life an important topic. Perhaps the most critical aspect of a successful transition is that first job placement.
If you can find a career you're passionate about, it will make all the difference, and experts say the job market is exceptionally good right now. Here are three ways to simplify the process.
1. Work with a Recruiting Agency During Transition
Marine veteran Bob Berkholz, who has worked as a recruiter with Orion Talent for 25 years, said that in the current market, those with "decent flexibility" in their geographical parameters could be placed in a job within a few weeks.
While this timeline can vary depending on your military specialty, Berkholz said working with a recruiting agency can make all the difference. In fact, he landed his first position at Orion Talent through one of the 75+ hiring conferences the company hosts annually.
"I would tell veterans to exercise their options in the job market and take advantage of a firm like ours to showcase your skill set," Berkholz said. "We can assist them with so many different tools and make the transition much more effective and enjoyable."
In many cases, it takes the stress out of the job search. Plus, it can increase chances of longevity.
"It may establish a longer career path if you're matched up with the right company," he said.
2. Take a Professional Assessment Test
In addition to working with a recruiter, Berkholz emphasized the importance of planning ahead.
"Don't wait until you're 30 days from separation to plan your transition," he said. "This needs to be something you're thinking about in advance."
For Ben Adams, a Navy veteran who spent years planning his transition, this was critical to his success.
"You have to take time to peel back the onion," Adams said. "It starts with knowing yourself. If you don't know yourself, you don't understand your weaknesses and passions."
Today, Adams works for Amazon as a human resources business partner, a role he knew would be a great fit after taking several professional assessments. He typically recommends CareerLeader and the CliftonStrengths Assessment as key resources in this specific area.
Adams said many of the transitioning service members he assists are surprised by their assessment results.
"These tests align with their passions and strengths, but they have nothing to do with what they thought they wanted to do," he said.
At the end of the day, Adams said, assessments make a difference when it comes to finding a career you love, versus simply finding a job.
3. Lean into a Mentor
While statistics around the subject vary, most people agree that "who you know" is a large part of the equation.
Finding a mentor to coach you (and potentially connect you) might impact your marketability. From building your resume to preparing for interview questions, a mentor can help you make the right choice when it counts the most.
For Adams, a mentor in the HR field was there to help him tailor his resume to reflect relatable military experience.
"She helped coach me and encourage me," he said. "Whether you're going into oil or finance, you have to be able to articulate it, and they can help."
For Adams, it took a dozen applications to land his first interview, but he was never discouraged.
"It's a journey, and everyone's journey is uniquely different," he said.
As for advice after a successful transition is made, Adams reminds veterans to keep others in mind and pay it forward.
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