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I’ve spent the last four years helping veterans reintegrate into civilian life. Despite all the resources the military has put into transition assistance programs, half of veterans struggle. You may know what I mean. It’s not just disabled vets or those with PTS who have a hard time. The unemployment rate for veterans remains higher than civilians. Young male vets fare the worse. As well, veterans report being underemployed at double the rate of non-veterans. So many who get a job feel lucky. And in fact, often it was just dumb luck. As a result, you don’t want to leave a job for fear you won’t get lucky a second time. Civilian life was supposed to be great. But when you’re stuck doing work you hate it isn’t. While you got solid skills in the military, you didn’t learn to take advantage of them.
Transition Assistance Programs Don’t Work
The programs go by many names, as if updating nomenclature modernizes content. But the classes remain outdated or counterproductive. They emphasize resume writing. In order of importance, this skill ranks no higher than 8th in priority. Training dealing with social media profiles leaves out the most important issues. Alternative career paths such as entrepreneurship are hardly mentioned.
You’re told to apply for a disability rating even if you’re perfectly healthy. Had I taken this advice, joining the reserves would have been difficult to impossible. And to boot, I would have lost out on the best health insurance plan out there.
The military has its hands full turning civilians into warriors. It has neither the resources nor the ability to turn warriors back into civilians. Although your fellow citizens will help you, you must take the initiative.
Through training and coaching over 1,600 veterans, I noticed eight ways they shoot themselves in the foot when job hunting. Several relate to mindset. None are dealt with in transition programs.
Job Hunting Deadly Sins
Veterans who smoothly reintegrated didn’t make these mistakes:
- Thinking you’re entitled to a job and its corollary that your job search is all about you.
- Not having clear objectives for your search.
- Treating civilians as liars when they say they support veterans.
- Believing it is or should be about having the right skills.
- Considering what you post on social media to be off limits from employers.
- Thinking all you have to do is post your resume on job boards.
- Applying for a job at a company where you don’t have an internal advocate.
- Not asking for the job if you want it and not following up properly or at all.
Take sin #1. Contrary to popular belief, America doesn’t owe you anything. You volunteered to serve our country. You were paid, fed, housed, given healthcare, and trained. If you were in the enlisted ranks you were clothed, at least partially.
Sure, sometimes life was hard. You spent a lot of time away from your family. If you were in combat, you faced danger and may have taken human life. Most civilians don’t do anything like this. But if you joined post-9/11, you knew what you were getting into.
How do you feel about working with people who have a chip on their shoulder? Annoying to say the least, right? Why would a civilian employer want to hire you if you have an entitlement attitude?
Your job search isn’t about you alone. You need to focus on finding an organization that can benefit from what you bring to the table. When an employer sees the value you deliver he’ll hire you. Embed this mutuality into your mindset.
If you feel entitled, you need to examine your attitude. Realize how you damage your relationships with others and yourself. The cure comes from gratitude and service. Write a list of the things to be grateful for. Read your list every day. Add new items. Keep building it. If you cannot think of anything, have a friend with a positive outlook give you some ideas.
Go help some people less fortunate than yourself. A man sits out in front of my synagogue almost every day asking for money. From what he collects he puts money in the charity box. He understands service. You can do the as well or better.
Over the next seven weeks, I’ll go through the other deadly sins and how to deal with them. By learning to avoid them, you’ll set yourself up for success.
Which of these is preventing you from getting the job you want? Please comment below.