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What Service Members Need to Know About Employment

Maybe you’re closing the chapter on your military life and opening a new one, or you're in the process of making long-term plans. This means transitioning from being a service member to a civilian employee in a company, nonprofit organization or maybe the government. As a service member, you have many resources available to help you with this significant change. Here’s an overview of what you need to know as you seek employment.

Explore your career path

There’s a difference between a job and a career. One pays the bills – the other gives you a sense of meaning and accomplishment.

Finding a career that matches your skills and interests is the key to job satisfaction. Invest some time in a little soul-searching before you begin your search to make sure you’re going down the right path.

Whether you plan to continue in your current field after leaving military service or you wish to pursue a new opportunity, you should ask yourself two questions:

  1. What are my career goals?
  2. What steps do I need to take to position myself for success?

To help you answer those questions, a self-assessment can help you set goals and plan your way forward. Here are a few options:

  • CareerScope® is a career planning and assessment tool through the Department of Veterans Affairs that recommends career choices based on your interests and abilities.
  • My Next Move for Veterans is an assessment tool to enable you to explore careers, including those related to your military occupational specialty.
  • Career OneStop also offers a self-assessment that includes an interest assessment and skills profiler. The service, which is sponsored by the Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, also offers tools for to help search for jobs, identify training and learn about careers.

Credential and leverage your military experience

Your military experience has given you training that converts to skills in the civilian world. The COOL program helps you translate your training into civilian credentials and speak better to what employers are looking for. Here are links to individual service branch programs:

The United Services Military Apprenticeship Program provides active-duty Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard service members the opportunity to improve their job skills and to complete their civilian apprenticeship requirements while they are serving.

DoD SkillBridge connects transitioning service members to career job training opportunities. Participate in training and development with industry and employers who are seeking the high-quality skills that you bring to the table.

The Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program provides transitioning service members with professional training and hands-on experience in the civilian workforce.

Build your resume

The goal of a resume is to effectively summarize and highlight your qualifications in a way that will make the employer want to reach out and schedule an interview with you. These tips will help you build a resume that will stand out.

  • Collect your assets. Get a copy of your Verification of Military Experience and Training through the Department of Defense. The VMET document helps you prepare resumes and job applications quickly when you separate from service.
  • Include essential components like contact information, job objective, summary of qualifications, employment history, education and training, and special skills.
  • Tailor your resume for the job. Translate everything into civilian terms and include volunteer experience.
  • Write a cover letter. Get the name of the person in charge of hiring, keep it to one page and always follow up.
  • Tap into resume-building tools. Check out Veterans.gov and VA.gov.

Find the right civilian job

Your military experience is valuable to many employers, but it’s up to you to get out there and sell it. Start with these tips:

  • Network. Get in touch with friends and fellow veterans. Organize your contacts and connections.
  • Tap into the services of your transition assistance offices. Get referrals for employment agencies and recruiters, job leads and career counseling.
  • Hit job fairs. Look for upcoming events to meet potential employers including:
  • Look for veteran-friendly companies. Many organizations are committed to helping veterans find a good job. Look for programs such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative. Check out organizations like Soldier for Life, Marine for Life, the Military Officers Association of American, Non-Commissioned Officers Association or Enlisted Association, and United Service Organizations. Also, see the HIRE Vets Medallion Award for a list of organizations committed to veteran hiring, retention and professional development.

Other employment benefits and assistance programs

Review some of the top services and programs offered by the military and the government, focused on jobs for veterans and helping you find your new career. Also, check out these employment benefits and assistance programs available before and after you leave the military:

  • Department of Labor Employment Fundamentals of Career Transition: This one-day workshop provides an introduction to the essential tools and resources needed to evaluate career options, gain information for civilian employment, and understand the fundamentals of the employment process.
  • Department of Labor Employment Workshop: This two-day workshop covers emerging best practices in career employment, including in-depth training to learn interview skills, build effective resumes, and use emerging technology to network and search for employment.
  • Vocational Training Track: Participants complete a career development assessment and are guided through a variety of career considerations, including labor market projections, education, apprenticeships, certifications and licensure requirements.
  • Soldier for Life engages and connects Army, government and non-governmental organizations to support soldiers, veterans and families.
  • Marine for Life connects transitioning Marines and their family members to education resources, employment opportunities, and other veterans services that aid in their career and life goals outside of military service.
  • National Guard Employment Support Program supports National Guard Service members in finding meaningful careers and job opportunities as they face the challenges of military life, whether mobilized or in a steady-state posture.
  • American Corporate Partners: Free mentoring program connects Post-9/11 veterans with corporate professionals for customized mentorships.

Match your military skills to civilian jobs, find transition resources, and start your military-to-civilian job search with the resources and information provided above. Check out all the resources for employment on Military OneSource.