Networking + Gaining Experience = Increased Opportunity

Transitioning from the military to a civilian career? Consider the case of Jason: with one month until graduation and what seemed like thousands of job applications submitted, he had not one interview. His anxiety was palpable. Surely his four years in the Air Force coupled with the bachelor’s degree he’d soon receive made him an employer’s perfect candidate, right? Why, then, couldn’t he land an interview?

Jason sought advice from a trusted ally: his sister, who helped him understand that his “one size fits all” resume wasn’t the right size for anyone. She explained the importance of tailoring it toward the job he sought. Once he developed a good resume writing strategy, it was time to put that approach to the test. Jason applied for a labor relations specialist opportunity. Although he had no HR background and had never worked with unions, the job posting mentioned manager and employee training; managing the grievance process (complaint resolution); and advising managers on policy interpretation – all things he’d done. He created a resume that focused on his investigation, conflict resolution and training facilitation in the Air Force, with bullet points of accomplishments and experiences for each.

After several weeks of waiting, Jason was selected for a phone interview with Kellogg’s. Anxiety crept in: had he oversold his related experience and skills?

He prepared for the interview in earnest by researching the company’s union representation, and collective bargaining agreements, and labor relations in general. This helped him gain a better understanding of the role and what would be required, which allowed him to examine which of his skills would apply.

The Kellogg’s recruiter asked for an overview of Jason’s experience and how he was qualified for the role. Because of his extensive research and thinking through how skills and experiences were related, Jason gave several examples that resonated with the recruiter. That led to an on-site panel interview with the manager and a couple of her peers.

“My approach for the panel interview was the same –prepare, prepare, prepare,” Jason said. “In addition to reviewing the research I’d already completed, I researched common interview questions and began to rehearse responses. Ultimately, I was offered the role!”

Jason found success after modifying his approach. His advice for fellow veterans who are seeking a new opportunity? “I recommend gaining experience where you can, whether that be through internships, volunteering or becoming an active member of an industry group,” he said. “Also, leverage your networks to assist in making new connections that might ultimately lead to a new opportunity.”

Transitioning from the military to a civilian career can be daunting and as a veteran, you may have worked in roles that at first do not appear to be transferrable to a civilian equivalent job. Create a LinkedIn account - it’s a great networking tool. Rely on Google as well when researching.

It will be important that you do your homework, leverage your networks, and understand the career or position you are pursuing, as well as the transferrable skills and experiences required. Once you see how your skills apply, you’ll be better able to articulate how your military experiences are relevant.

In the end, determination coupled with intentional networking and a hunger for gaining experience (no matter how big or small is the best formula. Benjamin Franklin said it best: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Visit Kellogg’s page on RecruitMilitary’s job board to apply for a role at this organization that sees the value of hiring veterans.

By Katie Becker