Not all veterans leave the military proclaiming at the top of their lungs that they served. In fact, a lot of veterans separate and then spend a year or the first few years almost hiding the fact that they were in the military.
Maybe you were stationed at a base overseas where the locals were anti-military and they got to you, or you saw hazing or other oddities in your time in the military (we hope not!) that gave you a sour aftertaste. Just remember that those experiences do not represent the military, they are one-offs and in no way diminish the fact that you served our country and that our great military provides us with the freedom and security that we all enjoy.
If you're trying to make friends in a super liberal bar, then okay, you don't have to wear your Eagle, Globe, and Anchor jacket or show off your cool Navy anchor tattoo. But if you're trying to network and get a job, it's best to avoid that anti-honeymoon period, or get over it as quickly as possible. Here are three reasons why:
1. You have an established alumni network
Imagine going to the top university for what it is you want to do in the civilian world. What will you get out of the program, above anything else? Usually, the realistic answer is contacts. But you already have an established network of military veterans who are out there in these different types of jobs. Reach out to them and ask for an informational interview. Join social media websites that target veterans, and make sure you're not bashing the military on your social media posts. You never know when someone will introduce you to the right person, and that right person just happens to be a veteran.
2. It can give you an advantage in the interview
While some of your younger peers might not get it, the older (and often more senior) crowd tend to attach more weight to a veteran resume. They know that having served means you made a great sacrifice, and that you likely left the military with an increased work ethic, discipline, and leadership traits (along with all of the other skills you learned in the military). So let them know, in a non-boastful, proud but not annoying way. Remember that it can give you a little boost, but is not the reason they should hire you.
3. Other opportunities may arise
Sometimes you might think you want to go one direction in life, and then another opportunity comes along that you didn't expect. If your professional acquaintances know that you're a veteran and it says so on your resume and online profiles, someone might tell you about a job that only you are qualified for out of your network, because of your military background. A hiring manager for a position you didn't apply for might be a veteran or have a daughter shipping off to the Marines, and then one day they pick up your resume or stumble across your profile, and that's all it takes to capture their interest.
So keep an open mind. Be proud of who you are and what you did, even if at times you felt that you didn't fit in or belong. You'll get over that negativity eventually, so you might as well make an effort to grow up sooner than later -- your career will likely thank you for it.